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I-Team: City Taking Drastic Legal Action Against Boston Landlord

By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent
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BOSTON (CBS) – A Boston landlord could lose control of his buildings. The I-Team has learned city officials consider him the worst of the worst.

So they’re taking action.

For Boston housing inspectors, 40 Harding Road in Roslindale is an inspector’s nightmare.

Broken smoke detectors, exposed wiring, mice, rats, broken floor boards and the list goes on and on. The four-family is just one of nine properties owned by Boston landlord, Uwa Lawrence. Lawrence is familiar with violations and courtrooms. The I-Team has learned he’s been called there 38 times since 2011.

Uwa Lawrence in Boston Housing Court. (WBZ-TV)

Uwa Lawrence in Boston Housing Court. (WBZ-TV)

Donna Bey pays $1,100 a month to live at 40 Harding. “Last winter there was no heat, there was no water, I had to buy gallons of water to wash my dishes,” she said.

Asked what happened when she called the landlord, Bey replied, “nothing.”

Take a walk through 25 Orlando St. in Mattapan, one of Lawrence’s other properties, and you will find overflowing trash, broken windows and, yes, fed up tenants like Dania Rosario.

“If we are paying you rent, then we ought to be able to live OK.  We should not live like animals. We are not animals. We are people,” Rosario said.

Commissioner William Christopher, the head of the city’s Inspectional Services Department, is so fed up with Uwa Lawrence he has instructed the city’s attorney to begin the legal process of taking away Lawrence’s ability to control his own buildings.  It is called receivership.

Christopher says “there are nine that we are looking at right now.”

Asked if the city would take receivership of all of them, Christopher replied, “We would like to. There is one right now which has reached that threshold.”

Christopher says currently the “potential for danger is real.”

In Boston Housing Court recently, Lawrence told the judge that part of the problem was that his architect was away on vacation. The judge wasn’t buying his argument and told him to be back in court on Sept. 5 with proof that he was making improvements.

The I-Team confronted Lawrence outside the courtroom but he would not answer any questions.

How outrageous is this landlord’s behavior? Consider this, on a bitter cold day last February Lawrence had his workers remove the windows, doors, and circuit breaker from a woman’s apartment whom he wanted out. Needless to say she left that day.

Send tips for the I-Team to iteam@cbsboston.com

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