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Editorial

Landlord billed for police: 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 cop

Absentee landlords in Boston now have extra motivation to deal with criminal activities on their property — a hefty bill for around-the-clock police presence.

Last winter, the Menino administration turned up the heat on landlord Wendy Rist whose Bakersfield Street property in Dorchester was the site of multiple drug deals and trouble calls, including a stabbing. Members of the city’s Problem Properties Task Force offered to work with Rist. But her inaction resulted in a decision to post a police officer outside her property for about three weeks along with an accompanying bill for almost $24,000.

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A Boston ordinance gives the police commissioner discretion to assign an officer and bill the landlord after eight valid public safety complaints at a property over a 12-month period. Such action should be taken only in the rare case when a landlord fails to work with city officials. In this case, it was the right time and property for a crackdown.

Rist took her case to the city’s Problem Properties Appeals Board. In a recent unanimous decision, the board upheld the assessment for the police detail while citing the landlord’s failure to bring eviction proceedings against problem tenants or work “diligently’’ with police to resolve the problems. Rist is currently negotiating a settlement agreement with city officials.

“The goal was to get her attention and we got it,’’ said Jay Walsh, director of Boston’s Office of Neighborhood Services. Not every landlord has the luxury of quiet, law-abiding tenants. But every landlord should be responsible for taking reasonable actions against overtly lawless tenants before the problems spill over into the surrounding neighborhood. Those who ignore that responsibility should prepare for the cost of business to rise in Boston.

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