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Salisbury Beach landlord fights $22K fine

SALISBURY, MA — A Salisbury Beach landlord is appealing a fine of more than $22,000 for failing to comply with the Board of Health’s rental property inspection ordinance.

Salisbury Health Agent Jack Morris said the problem dates back to Feb. 24, 2016, when he learned that Daniel Belfiore, owner of the apartment building at 128 Railroad Ave., hadn’t complied with the Health Department’s regulation requiring inspections of all rental properties in town.

Morris learned of the problem when Belfiore and his son were in court because of similar issues in the building they owned at 126 Railroad Ave.

The 2009 town bylaw requires inspections of all rental units. Board of Health Chairman Ronald Laffely explained at the board’s meeting in March that the ordinance was adopted to ensure all Salisbury renters have safe places to live.

After Feb. 24, Belfiore began the inspection process to get certificates of habitability for the apartments on the first floor of 128 Railroad Ave., according to Morris. Belfiore eventually received the certificates after making needed improvements, Morris said.  

But Morris said that on March 2, 2016, Belfiore filed a notarized affidavit for an exemption from the regulation for Units 4, 5 and 6. The reason given was that those units were either self-occupied or rented to blood relatives, exemptions that are permitted.  

It wasn’t until November that Morris learned the person living in Unit 5 was not Belfiore’s relative

“On Nov. 22, I got a complaint from the tenant of Unit 5 at 128 Railroad Ave.,” Morris said. “She said the stove was broken, that she had no heat. When I said to her, ‘Aren’t you related to the landlord?’ She answered, ‘No, I am absolutely not related to him.’”

Morris inspected the unit, finding several violations, he said. Among them were insufficient heat, inadequate electrical outlets, smoke and carbon monoxide alarm issues, and the second-floor porch was separating from the wall.

“I think this is egregious,”  Morris said. “I call it misrepresentation.”

Morris started calculating the $100 fine allowed for each day a landlord is not in compliance. By the time Belfiore appealed to the Board of Health on March 7, the fine was up to more than $22,000. Belfiore was in noncompliance for more than 200 days, Morris said.

At the hearing March 7, Belfiore told the board it was all a big mistake.

Belfiore, a Haverhill resident year-round, said he has owned the building for 20 years and his family stays there in the summer. He said he sometimes rents apartments to relatives and other people.

Belfiore said he now knows the inspection bylaw has been in effect for years but did not prior to this run-in with Morris.

Belfiore told board members that although he agreed he filed the affidavit for the exemption for Units 4, 5, and 6, he didn’t really mean they were all lived in by relatives.

That’s a misunderstanding, he said, even though the people living in Unit 5 have rented the apartment for five years and aren’t relatives.

“I would be the last person to violate a regulation or commit perjury,” he told the board.

His son and his wife have lived in two of those units, he said, and at the time of the affidavit, he expected they or another relative may be living there again.  Read More