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Malden

Letter sent to tenants in error

Tenants at a low-income Malden apartment complex received paperwork from their property manager with the letterhead of the Malden Redevelopment Authority’s lead abatement program, but the landlord never formally applied for the program and the paperwork never should have been sent, according to officials.

Jennifer Pozark said she got the notice Aug. 8 that her apartment at 166 Salem St. was being considered for the lead program, with instructions to read and sign a tenant information/agreement form. The form, a copy of which was supplied to the Globe, said she would receive $100 per day her apartment was unlivable, but would not receive the stipend until up to two weeks after the work was completed.

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The forms — which other tenants of the building also confirmed receiving — gave no date when the work would be done. No money was offered for storage expenses.

The tenant information/agreement form suggested she stay with friends or family during the process, and to move all her belongings to the middle of the apartment and cover them with plastic.

“I live in a 12- by 14-foot studio apartment,” Pozark said. “I can’t see how that’s possible.”

While it’s true that the building’s owner, Frank Privitera of Somerville, contacted the authority some time over the summer to see if the building would qualify for the deleading program, he was told that it wouldn’t qualify even before sending in an application, according to authority officials. The units are mostly studio apartments, and young children — a priority in the deleading program — are rarely on the property.

Tenants at the 25-unit building should not have received any deleading program forms, said Stephen Wishoski, the redevelopment authority’s executive director.

‘We did not send it out and we did not authorize it.’

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“We did not send it out and we did not authorize it,” Wishoski said. “We’re not going to do a loan to delead that building.”

It’s unclear how, or why, the information/agreement forms ended up being delivered to the tenants at 166 Salem St. Privitera’s company, Premier Property Management, received about $150,000 through the program earlier this year to delead 38 units at 54 and 72 Mountain Ave., but forms from those jobs shouldn’t have been distributed to the building on Salem Street, said Deborah Burke, MRA assistant executive director.

Privitera also received a $250,000 loan through the redevelopment authority, funded by a community development block grant, for deleading and other work at 95 Washington St., Burke said.

Calls to Privitera’s company seeking comment were not returned.

Pozark said she feels she’s being left in the dark. She’s under the impression her apartment will be deleaded eventually, through the program or not, and that upgrades such as repainting and installing new woodwork will be done while she’s out of the unit.

“I’m concerned that the owners will use this as an excuse to raise rents, or terminate my lease,” she said.

The redevelopment authority has run lead abatement and other home improvement programs in Malden since the 1960s, but the program currently available was funded through a $3 million grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2011, Burke said.

For a project to be approved, it has to show that at least two-thirds of its tenants earn income 80 percent below the state’s median, according to Burke. Projects are also prioritized based on other factors — such as whether children or people with disabilities live there — as well as diversity.

To find that out, tenants must fill out paperwork asking a range of detailed personal questions, Burke said. If a property is selected for a grant, the owner must agree to maintain affordable prices for five years following the lead abatement, Burke said.

Tenants are supposed to be given the option of either receiving $100 per day and staying with friends or family, or to be put up in a nearby hotel or a deleaded apartment in the same building, Burke said. They are also supposed to be offered aid for moving belongings, if necessary.

The authority has nearly exhausted the $3 million grant, Burke said, and it is on pace to delead about 200 units by the time all the money is spent.

Units in properties that have had lead removed through the program include 133 Glen St.; 254 Broadway; 38 Main St.; 49 Bishop Road; 263 Clifton St., 62 Pleasant St.; 16 and 18 Richardson St.; 36 and 38 Albion St.; 145 Clifton St.; 51 Porter St.; 9 Columbia St.; 317 Salem St.; 39 Sprague St.; 169 Eastern Ave.; and 71 and 73 Cleveland St., according to records provided by the redevelopment authority.

Pozark said she pays a market-rate $850 a month for her studio apartment at 166 Salem St., which is a 16,000-square-foot building built in 1928, according to land records.

A property on Maple Street, owned by Alpha Management, recently applied to the lead abatement program, but its application was rejected because the owners failed to collect enough forms from tenants, Burke said. Tenants there received paperwork that appeared to be from the redevelopment authority in November similar to what was sent to Pozark, according to a statement from Medford/Malden Tenants United, a union representing tenants of Alpha-owned properties.

“A number of tenants received something that claimed to be from the MRA asking for very personal information,” the statement said. “That’s considered a red flag.”

Jarret Bencks can be reached at Bencks.Globe@gmail.com
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