Mystery flier alerts tenants to problems at North Cambridge development
The flier left this weekend warning tenants of problems at 45-47 Yerxa Road went largely unnoticed, although tenants were concerned upon hearing the details — mainly about the lapse of a certificate of occupancy, making it illegal for them to be there.
The likely reason the flier went unnoticed is that it was put at the front of the building, on a single tenant’s front door, rather than at the side entrance and mailbox area where it would have been seen by more people. Most tenants hadn’t seen the bright orange flier, which bore warnings and website addresses on one side and an old city document on the other reminding that without a certificate of occupancy, the building must be vacated.
Of several tenants interviewed Sunday, none wanted their name used publicly. All described vague fears of retaliation or of drawing attention to themselves that would result in a housing problem.
Some had had moved in just a couple of months ago, while others had been renting long term, since the spring of 2008.
Two said they were looking for another place.
“Now obviously I’m looking,” said one, expressing sorrow. “The people who live in this building are great. They walk their dogs … they’re good, neighborhood-type people.”
While one tenant thought a neighbor must have left it, no one expressed knowledge of the flier’s source. Many of the residents are not knowledgeable about the history of the building, and they said there were no tenants’ meetings going on to discuss the problems.
The flier, though, bears the suggestive headline “Rent strike” — the tenants pay a combined $26,000 per month to AAA Realty, of Boston — mentions the lapse of certificate of occupancy and asks what will happen to the tenants and their money if the developer’s problems leave them out on the street.
“Who will pay your moving expenses?” it asks. “What about security deposit, first and last month’s rent for another apartment? What will happen to tenants after Foreclosure Auction on November 3?”
The building is part of a 2.2-acre, L-shaped site that connects with Rindge Avenue. The rehab of the three former Roman Catholic school and convent buildings are being done by Joseph Perroncello, of Boston, who planned for some 63 units but has run into financial troubles. The remaining buildings are shells, halted before the installation of drywall. (One tenant reported that Perroncello’s contractors “have been working on the place a lot more lately.” Perroncello can avoid a jury trial set to start Nov. 16 if city inspectors agree he has cleaned his site adequately.)
But he may not be the owner of the property after Nov. 3, when it is being auctioned off by his mortgage holder, Webster Bank.
That’s apparently led to a slowdown in rentals of the Yerxa Road units, which, in what may have been among Perroncello’s first reversals on the site, were built to be condominiums but then rented instead of sold, according to one tenant. To neighbors, it’s just a detail in the site’s tortured, six-year history of construction.
To the residents, though, it’s been the only part of the story that mattered.
“It has seemed odd. No one has moved into the building lately,” said one resident who’d moved in recently after being forced to move quickly from his previous home. He and a friend looked at 15 apartments before finding Perroncello’s property, then signed a lease almost immediately.
“We were just happy to find a place,” he said. “A nice place.”
It is unclear what action the city will take about the lapsed certificate of occupancy and the tenants’ officially illegal occupation of the building. In February, despite the warning seen on the flier found Sunday, the response was to issue a temporary certificate.
Ranjit Singanayagam, the city’s building commissioner and commissioner of Inspectional Services, has not replied to a message left last week at his office.