Norwich is looking to close its boarding house, as tenants don’t know where to go
September 11, 2023 at 7:10 pm • Last updated: September 11, 2023 at 7:10 pm
NORWICH — About 14 people living in what the city calls an illegal downtown home are not sure where they will live after learning the city plans to condemn the property at 39-41 Cliff Street for safety and housing violations.
Zoning regulations do not allow rooming houses, which feature locks on each bedroom door and separate rentals for occupants. Recent inspections of the three-story home also found safety violations, including a stuck rear exit door, a dilapidated back staircase required as an emergency exit, and no smoke detectors. The house is also not registered as a residential building as required by the city.
The house is listed in city records as a four-unit apartment house, but city officials estimate 14 people live there, renting separate rooms.
City inspectors delayed the closing of the home until Tuesday to allow time to reach an agreement with the landlord and property manager and for tenants to meet with city human services officials to find emergency relocation or alternative housing. The house is owned by Cliff Street Construction LLC of Darien, which is managed by Jaspal Juj, a property manager who has purchased several rental properties in Norwich in recent months.
Tenants who gathered on the front and side porches of the home Tuesday afternoon remained confused, frustrated and angry with the landlord and city officials over the lack of communication. The sign on the door still wrote Monday as the closing date, and residents said they had nowhere to go.
Tenant Tracy Bertrand said he and Monica Miley shared a room and moved into the house in March after living there before. Even under the previous owners, the house was used as a boarding house with single rooms rented out, they said. They said they were looking for another apartment but had no prospects.
Mailly is seeking donations on gofundme.com to help her and Bertrand purchase a new apartment.
Tenant Armand Forand said he moved in two months ago and paid the money in advance. Forand was adamant that he would fight any eviction and would insist on getting his money back.
“If someone told me I had to go out into the street, I wouldn’t go quietly,” Forand said.
The condemnation notice stated that the facilities would be closed if the building was ordered to close.
Norwich Human Services officials met with several tenants Monday to get their information and learn how various emergency housing assistance funds can help. Human Services Director Kate Meld said relocation assistance with a rental conviction may not be available if tenants are living in an illegal housing situation. But she said her agency has other emergency housing funds available through United Way, the federal American Rescue Plan Act and her agency’s special assistance budget.
Bright yellow condemning letters were posted on the front door of the home on Friday, and the home was initially ordered to be closed on Monday. But Building Official Dan Cooley and Milde said the city has extended the deadline through the end of the week and into Tuesday to work on some issues.
Assistant Building Official Chris Berger, who conducted the inspections, said he was in contact Tuesday afternoon with Property Manager Carrie Arteaga to suggest an immediate settlement. If some quicker corrections were made, two of the apartments could remain open, Berger said. Berger asked the landlord to find temporary housing for any displaced tenants.
City regulations allow up to five unrelated adults to share an apartment, Cooley said. If tenants agree to share an apartment, they can stay in one of the units, but they will have to live as a group, not in separate, locked bedrooms.
“It sounds like we’ll be working with the property manager on this,” Berger said Tuesday afternoon.
Arteaga and Juj could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The city received a complaint that the building was an illegal dwelling at 4:15 p.m. on Aug. 31, Berger said. He inspected the home on Tuesday, September 5, and issued the violation notice last Thursday.
Three tenants, Kalil Adelson, Bellini Aristell and Charles d’Orleans, said they would agree to share the apartment. Adelson said he has rented a room in the house since 2019, and Aristell has lived there since 2021, both under the home’s previous ownership.
When human services workers in Norwich met with tenants Monday for potential housing assistance, Meld was on the phone with representatives from the nonprofit human services and housing agencies about broader issues related to the situation.
Meld said some of the tenants at 39-41 Cliff St. They were helped to move there by outside agencies. Meld said she would recommend policy changes that would call for housing assistance agencies to check with the city’s Housing and Human Services departments first to make sure an apartment or house complies with the city’s housing, fire and safety regulations before moving someone there.
Norwich Human Services, Housing and Fire inspectors and public utilities officials meet monthly as a housing management team to discuss specific building and tenant issues and find solutions. Meld said she would invite representatives from outside agencies and nonprofit housing groups to the next housing management team meeting to discuss the issue.