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New Haven fatal fire probe continues, includes former landlord

NEW HAVEN - Still no word yet as to the cause of a deadly apartment house fire in New Haven Sunday. However, the city is finally talking about some of what they know about that residence and its ownership.

With city assistance, displaced residents are in the process of finding new places to live and the city tells Fox 61 they have 12 agencies looking into the fire and this home.

Following a deadly fire Sunday morning, the city’s re-doubling its efforts to look into the history of 150 West St. - a home built in 1910.

“Since 1991, it has been listed as a two family residential unit,” said Laurence Grotheer, a city Spokesman.

Two family, including five bedrooms and two baths. That is not the case, though, but, according to tenants, who say there were 10 bedrooms and not enough escape options in this rooming house when it caught fire, killing two.

“The city knows that the property changed hands just in March and that the listing for that sale was contrary to the city‘s records,” said Grotheer.

The seller listed the residence as having seven bedrooms and three bathrooms.

“It suggests to me that there was a renovations made without the city’s knowledge or permission,” said Grotheer.

Documents provided to Fox 61 show that, from August of 2013 through June 2014, the previous owner failed to show up for scheduled inspections of the residence every month and the city contends that game actually continued for about four years. So, why not penalize the former owner? The city claims they couldn't.

“If the property is listed as a three family residence or more, that triggers the city’s inspection program,” said Grotheer.

So, with it listed as a two family, they had no recourse, he says. And, while there was a complaint of no heat reported by one of the residents in January 2018, there were no other red flags to trigger a full inspection, the city says.

Livable City Initiative, one of the agencies that monitors housing conditions, has only four inspectors available to monitor 25,000 non-owner occupied apartments in the city, but LCI is working on adding staff and citywide cohesion.

“The city is working to upgrade its IT programs so that these inspection programs, across city departments, could be streamlined,” said Grotheer.

Even though he sold 150 West Street, the previous owner remains on the city's radar.

“It is my understanding the previous owner owns a couple of other parcels in New Haven and city officials are working to compile records and documents regarding those other properties, as well,” Grotheer said.

That would include 649 Washington Avenue, where the city says an inspector found an illegal apartment in the basement and shut it down.

Displaced residents, who has been living in motels for the last several days, are now being assisted by the city in finding new homes.

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