October 22, 2014

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Five Lorain landlords face charges

LORAIN — A police officer who was placed on administrative leave for allegedly having a relationship with a woman while on duty is facing a new problem — he’s one of five landlords who have been charged with failing to comply with the city’s rental inspection law.
The officer, Stanley Marrero, and four other rental property owners face fines of up to $1,000 plus six months in jail for each rental if convicted, city Law Director Mark Provenza said.

According to a report filed by the Building Department, inspectors talked with Marrero about inspecting his two rentals, but he failed to follow through on a promise to schedule the inspections.

The five will be arraigned at 5 p.m. Aug. 29 in Lorain Municipal Court.

The five landlords own a total of 15 rental properties, a small percentage of the more than 10,000 rental properties in Lorain, most of which Provenza believes are not legally qualified to have tenants.

But they are the first to face criminal charges under the law, which was adopted by the city in 1997. The law requires landlords to have the exterior and interior of a home inspected before a rental certificate will be issued.

A July 3 fire at a West 22nd Street rental home triggered the renewed focus on rental property enforcement when fire crews discovered no working smoke detectors in the home. The fire left a single mother and her five children homeless.

The owner, Albert Elias of North Olmsted, also owns three other properties in Lorain, none of which has been inspected or certified to house tenants. He was one of the landlords cited.

“I hope the judge throws the book at him,” said William Desvari, chief building official. “I don’t know why people run from us on this issue.”

Desvari has come under sharp criticism from city officials, who said he has been running an ineffective department and not following up on warnings sent to landlords.

All landlords were notified that they needed to pay $50 for an inspection or the case would be forwarded to the courts, but there was no follow-through until now.

Desvari says he came into an ineffective building department in 2003, and he has improved it in strides.

“I’ve got more inspections done in the last four years than anyone before me,” Desvari said. “It’s easy for them to beat me up. The rules were set in motion in 1997. I came in 2003. Ask Jack Murphy (previous building official) why he didn’t do inspections.”

According to building department records, Marrero is being charged in connection with two properties he owns. One has holes in the ceiling, no running water and a broken door, according to city records.

The other landlords to be charged are:

  • Sharon Crowe, of Sheffield Lake, who owns one rental property on the 3600 block of Seneca Avenue.
  • Kenneth Roberts, of Amherst, who owns seven rental properties in Lorain.
  • Linda Brecheler, of Lorain, who owns one property.
     

“Some of these people own properties where people are living in squalor,” Desvari said. “You should see some of these places. It makes you want to cry for people. Human beings should know better. It’s not just one person’s fault, the system has failed itself.”

Contact Ben Norris at 329-7119 or bnorris@chroniclet.com.