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New Bedford is cracking down on absentee landlords. Will it work?

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New Bedford Light, March 2024

George Ostler crept down Jouvette Street in a black SUV. He looked left, he looked right, and then he spotted the pile of sticks. He stopped the car.

The large brush pile was in the driveway of a run-down, boarded-up triple-decker, surrounded by scattered litter. It hadn’t moved since the last time Ostler drove down Jouvette Street a few weeks earlier.

Ostler, the head of New Bedford’s Code Enforcement Division, was making his Friday morning rounds. White paint was peeling off the building. Weeds sprouted from the driveway. Since 2019, the city has cited this long-vacant property’s owner for more than 100 code violations — including a previous ticket for that pile of sticks. Ostler decided he would add one more. “It’s unsightly,” he said as he wrote up the ticket. “It’s unkempt.”

As he continued his rounds, Ostler wondered why a landlord would leave a property abandoned for years like that, especially after so many tickets. He didn’t get it. One code violation is understandable, he said, but any more than that is too many.

“When you start hitting 10, that’s just neglect,” he said. “You don’t care about your neighbors; you don’t care about your neighborhood.”

By Ostler’s definition, neglect is common in New Bedford: More than 500 properties have received at least 10 code violations in the last five years, city data shows. Dozens of properties have racked up more than 50 violations in that time.

Read more at New Bedford Light.

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