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City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina proposes fining landlords for unruly tenants

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  August 15, 2012 09:04 AM

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LaMattina on Hanover.jpg

(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)

City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina paused for a photo on Hanover Street in the North End..

Boston City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina has proposed a new ordinance that would fine landlords whose tenants cause repeated noise problems, in an effort to curb late-night disturbances in the North End and other city neighborhoods.

The ordinance grew out of repeated complaints about loud parties in the North End and Beacon Hill over the past several years, LaMattina said in an interview last week. He said an influx of young professionals, often recent college graduates, had brought unwanted noise to these densely populated residential neighborhoods.

LaMattina, an East Boston native who represents that neighborhood, the North End, and Charlestown, said Suffolk University had worked closely with the city to deal with noise problems caused by its students living in downtown neighborhoods, but the city lacked a similar partner in dealing with young college grads. He hopes the possibility of fines will encourage landlords to work with the city to deal with problem tenants.

It’s one way the city can approach the problem, he said, conceding that there’s no way to prevent loud parties from ever taking place.

“We can’t,” LaMattina said. “But what we can do, and what I want to do is to make sure that landlords are responsible. So if you’re a landlord now and you sign a lease, you need to let your tenants know about the noise ordinance that we have in the city. They need to be educated: listen, there are families that live here in the neighborhood.”

Past efforts to involve landlords in dealing with loud tenants had spotty results, LaMattina said, so he decided to adopt an approach similar to that of the 2010 “Green Ticket Law.” Under that law, the city adds unpaid fines for improperly putting out trash or failing to shovel snow to property taxes, so owners cannot evade the fines.

“My goal is to hold landlords responsible,” LaMattina said. “In the meantime, there’s a mechanism where they’re working with city officials and police to address some of their problem tenants. So if they’re having problems with a tenant, they’re not doing the right thing, we’re going to work with them. If they’re going to try to evict their tenants, we’ll work with them in the eviction process.”

LaMattina, who is running for Suffolk County register of probate, brushed aside any suggestion that the bill was intended to shore up support in advance of the Sept. 6 primary election.

“I could understand [people thinking] that if I wasn’t working on these issues, but I have a five-year history of working on these issues,” he said.

LaMattina’s nuisance control ordinance, filed in late July, would levy fines as follows: for the first offense, the resident, the organizer, and any attendees of a loud party responsible for creating a public nuisance would face a $100 fine. On a second or subsequent offense within one year of the first, a $300 fine would be levied against all the above, plus the owner of the property.

Property owners would be notified by mail of the first offense and would not be fined unless the second offense took place at least two weeks after that mailing. The owner would not be held responsible if he or she were working with police and city officials to deal with the problem or were pursuing eviction of the problem tenant.

While walking down Hanover Street with a reporter, LaMattina stopped to speak with Victor Brogna, a 19-year North End resident who is active in the North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association. Brogna said the noise issue has existed in the neighborhood for “a long time, but it has escalated and become more and more of a problem in recent months, even.”

Brogna said he wants landlords to get the message that they have a responsibility in dealing with noise, and he thanked LaMattina for his efforts.

Stephanie Hogue, president of the residents’ association, said in a phone interview Tuesday that the ordinance is “a good idea, as far as it goes.” She’s happy to see the issue of loud parties being addressed, but she said the other half of the problem is street noise from visitors walking back to their cars at closing time, often with several drinks under their belts.

Hogue said some residents living on popular routes from the restaurants on Hanover and Salem streets to parking garages are awakened several nights a week, and they are frustrated that they have to get up each time and call 911 to report the disturbances. She said the acoustics of the North End’s narrow streets lined with brick buildings are such that even a conversational tone is amplified, disturbing neighbors.

Hogue would like to see more late-night police patrols dealing with patrons leaving restaurants and bars, but she gave LaMattina credit for making an effort.

“I think the neighborhood appreciates Sal trying to do something to improve enforcement, so kudos to Sal for doing what he can,” she said.

Email Jeremy C. Fox at jeremycfox@gmail.com.
Follow Jeremy C. Fox on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow the North End on Twitter: @YourNorthEnd.

Brogna LaMattina.jpg

(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)

LaMattina paused to speak with longtime North End resident Victor Brogna outside a neighborhood café.

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