fb-pixel

Boston inspectors find dozens of violations in buildings of ‘neglectful’ landlord

Miesha Warren had reason to be impatient as she waited for housing inspectors to enter her Mattapan apartment Tuesday morning.

“I’m going to have to close my door soon, because mice run through this building,” Warren said. “And I don’t like mice.”

Mice weren’t her only problem. There were cockroaches, broken doors and windows, dumped appliances, faulty utilities, exposed cables, and other violations found in three residential properties owned by Uwa Lawrence on Orlando Street.

Officials from the city’s Inspectional Services Department have called Lawrence “one of the city’s most notorious landlords.” So inspectors from a constellation of city agencies united Tuesday for a comprehensive inspection of his Orlando Street properties, hoping Lawrence will change the way he runs his buildings.

Advertisement



“When I was here before, I was not very happy with the status of” the properties, said inspectional services Commissioner William Christopher Jr., who inspected the properties last year. “There’s no forgiveness there. Do what you’re supposed to do.”

Lawrence and his management company, Idada Realty, did not respond to multiple requests from the Globe for comment Tuesday.

About 15 inspectors — representing inspectional services and the fire, housing, and public health agencies — swooped in throughout the morning. They started at the door of each building and went from there, using sticks and flashlights to evaluate smoke detectors, hallway cleanliness, fire and safety hazards, and sanitary conditions.

Some of the biggest violations that inspectors found: a refrigerator dumped behind a building; fire escape doors that didn’t properly shut; an electrical room crowded with washing machines, oil storage tanks, and flammable materials; and missing smoke detectors.

Inspectors issued dozens of code violations on Tuesday as a result of what they found in Lawrence’s buildings. They also fined him more than $1,100 for improper storage of trash, illegal dumping, and unregistered vehicles on his property. While some violations must be resolved in 24 hours, most have a 30-day deadline.

Advertisement



Information from the Inspectional Services Department shows other code violations at the Orlando Street buildings dating to 2012.

City documents show Lawrence has been summoned to court dozens of times since 2007 for violations at his Boston properties. He was in housing court for another property while the Orlando Street inspection was taking place, Christopher said.

Christopher said he hopes Lawrence “gets the message” following Tuesday’s inspection.

“Just provide proper housing that people can live in on a satisfactory level,” Christopher said. “I don’t want to just write fines, because fines don’t correct errors.”

The three buildings on Orlando Street include 24 apartments. Many who live in the buildings pay rent through federal or state housing choice voucher programs, officials say.

Warren, who has lived in a basement apartment in Orlando Street for more than two years, had a dispute with Lawrence about protective bars placed on her windows. She said Lawrence removed the bars even though housing officials told her he was supposed to replace them.

“With him cutting them off, someone tried to break in my apartment,” Warren said as inspectors found mice droppings in her kitchen. “So now I have wood on my windows.”

Pamela Cesar has lived in the building next door to Warren for almost eight years. She said Lawrence demeans the many tenants who, like her, pay their rent through voucher programs.

“He’s a very neglectful landlord,” Cesar said. “When he’s neglectful . . . people stay without hot water, people stay without heat, people stay without light. And it’s not fair.”

Advertisement



It’s come to the point that Cesar pays private carpenters, plumbers, and exterminators rather than going through Lawrence.

“I’ve been paying those myself because I don’t want to deal with him,” Cesar said. “He won’t get anything done anyway.”

This is not the first time agencies have come together to examine these properties; they did the same joint inspection in December.

Because Lawrence failed to resolve earlier violations, the Boston Housing Authority and Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, a state housing voucher provider, placed Lawrence on a “disapproval” list. Lawrence cannot accept new tenants through the agencies and will have current contracts terminated if he does not keep his buildings up to code.

Lisa Furr, who has lived almost a year in one of the Orlando Street buildings, said because of all of the inspections, she worries authorities will condemn the buildings. She said she thinks tenants bypass Lawrence and go straight to the city when housing issues arise.

“Maybe the tenants have gotten frustrated to the point where they just can’t talk to him,” Furr said.

A man whom inspectors identified as Lawrence’s son arrived at the Orlando Street units as the inspections were ending. Boston Fire inspectors told him he needed to add more than 20 carbon monoxide detectors to two buildings within 24 hours. He did not give his name to the Globe.

Advertisement



Angelia Brown, who has lived in one of the buildings for three years, yelled at Lawrence’s son as he entered another property. She said she had been trying to reach his father to no avail; her kitchen and bathroom sinks have been clogged for days.

Miguel Otárola can be reached at miguel.otarola@globe.com.