Landlords express frustration before police commission

LACONIA — A handful of residential landlords attended yesterday's Police Commission meeting yesterday to voice their displeasure at the confusion surrounding the department's policies on "civil standbys" and when officers will accompany landlords into a tenant's home.

Landlord Harry Bean said he has owned 80 apartments in Laconia for 40 years and in many cases he has had problems accessing his buildings because of lack of tenant cooperation. He said many of them pretend not to be home when they are, despite being given the required 24-hour notice that he was coming by to fix something or to have access to his building.

"I've been sucker punched twice by tenants recently," Bean said, saying that if the police weren't going to accompany him into an apartment when he needs them to, then he will start to carry a gun for his own protection.

He said he would recommend that all landlords arm themselves when dealing with problem tenants.

He also told the commissioners that if he was forced to go alone into a problem tenant's apartment, he "was the one that would be coming back out unharmed."

The discussion about a police officer's role in so-called civil standbys was triggered when police management disciplined an Officer Brandy Ennis, who entered an apartment with a landlord after the tenant had been given 24-hour notice. The officer made sure the apartment was empty of people before the landlord went into the house to access the basement to do some maintenance on the furnace.

The landlord had called the police because there had been a previous confrontation with the tenant and he was in the process of evicting him.

At the recommendation of her supervisor, Ennis was disciplined for entering the apartment without speaking first to the tenant or contacting her supervisor.

Chief Chris Adams assured Bean that the police would still respond to all his and other landlords requests for civil standbys and that each incident would be handled according to the circumstances at the time.

Debbie Valente, the president of the N.H. Property Owners Association, said she thought the commission was going to determine and announce the disciplinary action taken against Enis yesterday but commission Chair Warren Clement said the matter was a personnel issue, that he wasn't going to talk about it in public, and that the officer and her attorney had been notified as to the determination.

Valente wasn't mollified and accused the police off "making it up as they go along." She said the landlords were being mislead by the police, to which Adams replied that the police have to follow the law and cannot violate the rights of the tenants.

When someone suggested the law should be changed, Clement reiterated that the police "don't make the law but they have to follow it."

As to the determination of the commission regarding Enis punishment if any, the hearing continued in a non-public session held last Friday at 9 a.m. that was initially attended by The Daily Sun.

When the commissioners asked Enis attorney if they were to continue in a public session, he said he and his client had no opinion, so the board transitioned to a non-public meeting and The Daily Sun was asked to leave.

Enis's attorney said Adams had recommended a three-day unpaid suspension for Enis but the commission hadn't made any decision at potion of the meeting he attended. He said the commissioners agreed that if they did decide to suspend her they would not impose the suspension for 30 days to give his client time to decide if she would appeal to the Belknap County Superior Court.

At press time, it is not known what final action the commissioners took.