In what city officials and neighborhood leaders hailed as a victory against troublesome properties in Oakland, a district judge on Thursday fined a property owner $730,000 — a remarkably high sum — for code violations at a Centre Avenue apartment building.
District Judge Gene Ricciardi imposed the fine on Squirrel Hill resident Sophia Edgos, who owns the converted house at 4512 Centre Ave. Judge Ricciardi said the building has four apartments, although Allegheny County assessment records indicated that the building has between five and 19.
Records showed that Ms. Edgos and a second person bought the building in 1979 for $32,000; court records now identify only Ms. Edgos as the property owner.
“The fine is significant because the code violations are serious,” Judge Ricciardi said after the hearing. The city’s Bureau of Building Inspection filed a criminal complaint alleging 10 violations, including broken windows, holes in the foundation, “trash and debris throughout” the property, a lack of smoke detectors and illuminated exit signs, deteriorating chimney mortar and loose bricks.
During an afternoon visit to the apartment building Thursday, trash littered the yard. One window was broken, and others lacked curtains. A ladder rested against a chimney, and empty garbage cans sat in the yard. No tenants appeared to be around.
City council staff members and Blair Kossis, property manager for Oakland Planning and Development Corp., a neighborhood group, said the fine was the biggest they had seen for code violations.
In such cases, Judge Ricciardi said, he mainly wants the landlord’s commitment to address violations.
But he said Ms. Edgos wasn’t cooperative or remorseful. Asked about the missing smoke alarms, Judge Ricciardi said, Ms. Edgos indicated that she delivered a box of them for tenants to share.
“I found that testimony lacking, seriously lacking,” he said. “You just can’t deliver a box of smoke alarms.”
Ms. Edgos, who represented herself at the hearing, could not be reached for comment afterward. She has 30 days to pay the fine, set up a payment plan or appeal to Common Pleas Court. Often, a Common Pleas judge will reduce fines if the owner has made progress on correcting violations.