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NULab Faculty Daniel T. O’Brien Cited in a Case of Absentee Landlords

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In a recent article published in The New Bedford Light, titled “The city is cracking down on absentee landlords. Will it work?“, author Grace Ferguson interviews city officials and local urban studies professors to elucidate the problem of depilated and neglected properties in this Massachusetts city. A key source through this article is the head of New Bedford’s Code Enforcement Division, George Ostler. He explains that there are numerous properties throughout the city that rack up violations and tickets and fines—for anything from overgrown brush to litter to scattered furniture and trash—but never do anything to fix the problem. The current system enables a slow increase of fines correlating to the landlord’s number of violations, capping at $300. City officials, however, proposed adjusting this process so that the $300 cap is reached much sooner, in the hopes of motivating landlords to tend to their properties.

On the topic of code enforcement, NULab faculty Daniel T. O’Brien is cited as an expert. According to O’Brien, a fee increase won’t be enough to incentivize a real change in these absent landlords’ behaviors. O’Brien, who has studied similar property problems in Boston, said, “If they’re not paying now, why would they pay something more?” and “I think the only thing that matters to them is if there’s teeth to it.” O’Brien elaborated that while the fee increase is a “step in the right direction,” since state law prevents the city from charging more than $300 per offense, the fee schedule would merely serve as “a gnat bussing in the landlord’s ear.” O’Brien concluded that, “Sticking to the current fee schedule setup, I’m not sure you would reasonably get to a cost that would matter to absentee landlords and deter them.”

You can read the full news article here.

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