East Stroudsburg, Monroe County – The man who owns a Monroe County row home property where a fire displaced more than two dozen people earlier this week hasn’t been following rental laws. The property on Lackawanna Avenue in East Stroudsburg was not in compliance with the borough’s rental safety code.
The borough sent property owner, Sal Catalano three warning letters but he did not comply with instructions to register his property.
Borough Manager Jim Phillips said, "This fire is unfortunately an example of one of the situations that we are trying to reduce if not eliminate."
Phillips explained the borough council enacted strict rental safety laws last year. The rental rules show apartment buildings should have fire blocking walls, so flames don’t spread between apartments. Phillips believes the Lackawanna row homes did not. The law also requires landlords to register their properties. "As part of that licensing requirement they would be subject to inspection at least every two years,” said Phillips.
Catalano said, "I just was down there two weeks ago talking to the zoning officer." Phillips said Catalano simply told him, “It’s difficult to be a landlord.” When pressed to explain exactly what is going on Catalano stated he was busy. He added, "I'm sure you're nice people but some of the news people get to be sensationalists."
A row home resident who asked not to be identified said she doesn’t blame the landlord. She believes someone smoking in bed started the fire. "It's just carelessness and it was her,” she said. "She caught her mattress on fire twice already before this fire."
A State Police Fire Marshal has not yet determined an official cause of the fire.
Phillips said this isn’t the only problem property in the borough. About 20% of East Stroudsburg’s landlords are not fully following rental laws. They can get fines of up to $500 per violation.