Report exposes Lewiston’s three worst slumlords

Report exposes Lewiston’s three worst slumlords

When Lewiston resident Shawn Greeley moved into an apartment at 32 Horton Street, he found the conditions so appalling he had no choice but to report it to his landlord, Rick Lockwood.

“When I moved in there were giant holes and leaks in the walls and floors. There are also cockroaches and bedbugs. I asked Lockwood to make repairs and I never heard back,” said Greeley. “I stopped paying rent because Lockwood was unresponsive and the apartment was in such bad condition. He then threatened to kill me. He actually said, ‘I’ll kill you.’ Code enforcement visited my apartment but has not done anything to help. Lockwood recently shut off my power. This is wrong. It’s just wrong.”

Lockwood is at the center of a new report released by the Maine People’s Alliance (MPA) and the Neighborhood Housing League (NHL) exposing the shady practices of three of the city’s worst landlords. The report details major health, safety and livability concerns at 71 Lewiston properties owned by a web of shell corporations linked to Lockwood and two other landlords, Joe Dunne and Ted West.

The report was compiled from dozens of tenant interviews as well as an examination of code complaints and corporate records. Sixty two percent of residents surveyed who live in the properties in question reported ongoing problems with pests, plumbing and safety issues. Their complaints were reinforced by code enforcement records showing the landlords in question to be serial violators.

“The apartment smells of mold. There is mold in the walls, in the bathroom, and probably in the beams of the structure. I have lung problems and because of the mold I have contracted pneumonia since I moved in. This building is making me sick and if I hang around I’m going to die,” said Elida Jones, who lives in a building managed by Dunne. “We demand today that Joe Dunne, Rick Lockwood, and Ted West stop retaliating, start repairing, and start reimbursing tenants for the repairs and pest abatement we’ve all had to do in their absence. And we ask that Code Enforcement follow-through in ensuring that these complaints are dealt with in a timely way.”

“The families who live here have not caused this. They aren’t even victims of circumstance. They are victims of repeated exploitation and abuse from property owners,” said Melissa Dunn, Tenant Rights Organizer for the Neighborhood Housing League. “Too often, those who speak out are retaliated against through the turning off of electricity, heat and hot water and through eviction. I commend the bravery of the tenants who are coming forward today and those who have added their voices to this survey and their names to this letter of complaint.”

Ben Chin, a candidate for Mayor of Lewiston who also works as political director for MPA, spoke at the event. The other announced candidates, including Mayor Bob Macdonald, declined an invitation.

“These men give good landlords a bad name. They ruin our city’s reputation. They block economic development. And, the time for dealing with them behind closed doors is over,” said Chin. “Everyone—rich, poor, black, white, immigrant, native born, and everyone in between—has a stake in righting this wrong.”

The report recommends municipal policy changes in three areas: greater transparency of violations and building ownership, tougher enforcement for serial violators, and increased city investment and involvement in support of ethical landlords.

The full report can be accessed here.

Photo: 32 Horton Street Tenant Shawn Greeley speaks at the press conference releasing the report.

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Andrew Francis
Andrew Francis 5 posts

Andrew Francis is the Deputy Communications Director at the Maine People's Alliance.

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