October 29, 2005 | The Republican
By Buffy Spencer
Springfield— The owner of a Temple Street building whose roof collapsed on Oct. 9, displacing more than a dozen families, was ordered yesterday by a judge to pay the bulk of their rent at temporary housing for the four or more months it will take to repair the building.
Judge Dina E. Fein of the state Housing Court's Western Division, after hearing from lawyers for the city, the building owner, and tenants on Tuesday, ruled yesterday that the tenants would suffer the greatest hardship if alternative housing was not paid for by the owner.
The 15 Temple St. building was evacuated when remnants of Tropical Storm Tammy swept through the valley and dumped almost 5 inches of rain on Springfield in 24 hours.
John E. Garber, the lawyer for the building owner Chateau Associates of Springfield, told Judge Fein that the extraordinary amount of rainfall caused the roof collapse, for which the owner should not be held responsible. He also argued that since the Department of Housing and Urban Development provides subsidies for the apartments, he expects it not to authorize payment for temporary housing.
Fein wrote that the owner could provide the court with no documentation that the roof had been inspected since July 2002.
She said that tenants, through their lawyer, Geraldine McCafferty, raised questions of possible negligence which could be explored in further proceedings.
Debra Katz, general partner of Chateau Apartments, noted that the ruling said the court does not have evidence of negligence that would be required at a trial. She said that since the tenants are in immediate need, Chateau will comply with the order.
The owners had previously been ordered to pay to house the tenants at a motel until a court hearing. McCafferty told Fein on Tuesday that a city landlord had apartments ready for all of the tenants, but the apartments are not subsidized and the tenanats could not afford them.
The tenants will pay the same as they paid for their share of the subsidized rents at Temple Street, and the owner must pay the difference between that and the rent in the temporary apartemnts, up to the market rent set for the Temple Street apartments.
McCafferty said it is hoped that most of the families can move from the motel to apartments by today.
“They are all very relieved,” she said.