Double standards for Shires Housing?
It was with great interest I read in the May 3 edition of the Bennington Banner where the Vermont Attorney General fined Shires Housing $20,000 for filing false statements related to their monitoring of lead paint present in properties they own, but then reduced that amount to $1,000 due to "an inability to pay.''
Given the amount of units owned in the immediate Bennington area. I find it difficult to believe that Shires Housing has the inability to pay the $20,000 fine. Furthermore, being familiar with similar fines levied upon large landlords in the past, I have never seen the instance the fine was levied was reduced by 95 percent as was the case with Shires Housing. If anything, a portion of the fine to any other private landlord may be applied towards improvements in leased promises (but it is not reduced).
It is the duty of all landlords to comply with the essential maintenance practices that are part of the "lead law" in the state of Vermont. Landlords of all sizes, whether they lease one unit or 200, are required to file annual essential maintenance practice reports, which includes reports regarding lead paint present on the landlord's property. The case regarding Shires Housing reported in the Banner on May 3 made clear that Shires Housing filed false reports intending to mislead the Vermont Department of Health as to the presence of lead paint and the remediation of that issue on several of their properties
Shires Housing regularly invests over $200,000 in construction costs in each of their units. To make a claim that they have the inability to pay a fine that other landlords are regularly expected to pay is inconceivable, particularly when the intent by Shires Housing was to deceive their tenants and the Department of Health. This is the same Shires Housing that has been arguing for three years to place a project at the south end of Silver Street where approximately 24 units are planned to be built despite overwhelming non support from the immediate neighborhood and the community at large. Perhaps the Town should reconsider its support for this project given the deceptive nature of the maintenance practices employed by Shires Housing.
— David Fredrickson Bennington