Board of Health Declares House ‘Unfit for Human Habitation’

May 16, 2024
4 Hardy Rd. has been declared by the Bedford Board of Health as “unfit for human habitation” because of multiple violations of the state sanitary code. Photo by Wayne Braverman

The Bedford Board of Health on Monday declared the single-family house at 4 Hardy Road “unfit for human habitation” because of multiple violations of the state sanitary code.

Participating in a public hearing on Zoom, board members and health officials expressed sympathy for family members involved and referenced town resources available.

The resident of the house, part of a trust that owns the property, is in a rehabilitation facility and did not participate in the call. His two brothers were at the virtual hearing and one said, “We are planning on convincing my brother to sell the property as a teardown so he can use the funds to provide a different housing arrangement for himself.”

He added they were “very distressed” that their brother “was living in this place and we are doing all we can to see that he moves to a safer place. It is going to be traumatic for him, but we believe it’s the right move to get him out of that house. He may not agree with that right now.”  

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The board’s order says the building must be secured within 24 hours and can be accessed only for repairs or to retrieve personal property. The house was not judged structurally unsafe.

More than 50 years ago, the house briefly was the residence of the rock musician J. Geils. According to the assessors’ database, the four-bedroom, two-bathroom ranch house was built in 1959.   

Assistant Health Director Marisa Morello conducted an inspection of the premises within the past month. On Monday she delineated a litany of code violations, ranging from a leaky roof, mold throughout the interior, and lack of hot water to “excessive clutter of personal belongings and refuse,” toilets that don’t flush, and dead bedbugs in mattresses.

Although individually the problems could be addressed, cumulatively “these findings have found the dwelling to be unfit for human habitation,” Morello reported. The code violations “endanger the health and safety of occupants.” 

She illustrated the violations with photographs and included the corrective actions required. Heidi Porter, Director of Health and Human Services, stressed, “This is more than an order to correct. No one can live in this unit,” including when repairs are taking place.

Participating in a public hearing on Zoom, board members and health officials expressed sympathy for family members involved and referenced town resources available. Photo by Wayne Braverman

Asked by member Bea Brunkhorst about the owners’ recourse, Porter said they have the option to repair for a future inspection. 

“We would work with them on time frame. The other option is they could sell it or demolish it and sell the land.” She added, “We have no control over the timeline about how the family plans to dispose of the property” or the cleanup process. But “if people are going to go in there, we have to know.”

She also said items scattered on the property should be mitigated or “those could become a violation of nuisance laws.”

Member Ann Kiessling asked the family members how they feel. Porter told the brothers about her department’s resources that could help the resident. They replied that the Council on Aging staff has been receptive and Morello “was really helpful.”

Before the hearing, Porter said that in this kind of situation, “We want to help people get through it. We work very closely with our social workers in these kinds of cases so the occupants have resources.” She added that there are also regional services, including therapy for hoarders.

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