It’s low key – an old service garage on a private east Boston lane with pickup trucks outside and the roar of the airport behind. The interior tells a different story: there’s a four-bedroom apartment aft intended to serve as a “crash pad” for up to 20 flight attendants.
The City of Boston took control of the property and condemned the building on Wednesday after a resident reported a faulty smoke detector to firefighters. The Investigation and Enforcement Unit told GBH News the landlord does not have permission to convert the commercial space into housing.
“It’s completely illegal,” said City Inspector John Meaney, who answered the call.
The space had four bedrooms with multiple bunk beds and two bathrooms, as well as a kitchen, according to photos shared with GBH News.
“This unit was illegally constructed, stored hazardous materials, lacked smoke detectors and had no second means of egress,” the department wrote on Twitter.
The city conducted interviews with at least one of the flight attendants, who said he pays $300 a month for a bed in the apartment. They were getting a good deal — a room at the nearby Embassy Suites by Hilton Boston costs between $200 and $300 a night.
The front garage was used as a warehouse. From the public bike path behind her, the air conditioners can be seen in windows with a wooden glass covering that would allow visibility into the space.
From the photos, there didn’t seem to be a lot of belongings in the rooms.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Meaney, who worked with the inspection services for 37 years. “I saw rooming houses but not a crash pad.” The difference, he said, is that for flight attendants, they stay in a designated crash pad for a few days between layovers.
The property is owned by Solskinn Properties and Aaron Daigneault is registered as an officer.
Inspection services said Daigneault and a flight attendant were present when they arrived on April 5, but left without joining them during the inspection.
Yesterday, our Investigation and Enforcement team condemned a garage converted into an illegal 2-bedroom unit intended to house 20 people in E. Boston. This unit was built illegally, stored hazardous materials, missing smoke detectors and no second means of egress. pic.twitter.com/Mn3A2q2Un7
— Boston Inspection Services (@ISDBoston) April 6, 2022
Daigneault told GBH News via email that when he bought the building it was a warehouse and apartment, and he raised $3,600 a month from a tenant. . He told NBC10 Boston that he rented the building’s second floor to a woman, who sublet the space, adding all the extra beds without his knowledge.
“We rent apartments to single or multiple occupancy tenants with a strict tenancy through an online property management platform. This unit was rented out as a four-bedroom apartment,” he told GBH News, adding that it was “not a crash pad,” and the lease tenant agreed to move out. .
But on the fridge of the space at 37, rue Genève is a laminated poster, entitled “37 Genève – Crashpad Rules”. Among these guidelines: don’t give the door code to anyone, all “conduct and activity will be legal,” and spend 15-20 minutes in the bathroom—max.
Daigneault disputed the city’s assertion that the space is unsafe, saying there is “a second exit” or way out in the event of a fire, through the warehouse, where tenants have “two doors to the outside”.
The inspection services do not agree.
“Worst-case scenario, if you had everyone up there at once and there was a fire, it would be a death trap,” Meaney said. The ministry said Daigneault can either go through the process to make the space legal and have it denied or approved, or dismantle it.
“I fully respect and am prepared to work with all Boston City officials to allow any use,” said Daigneault, who is a local real estate agent and also owns Acorn Development, a construction company.
The neighbors didn’t seem too surprised by the bust. “I noticed quite a bit of activity from people who seem to work at the airport, especially the flight attendants, going in and out of the building all day,” said a neighbor named Nate, who didn’t want to. not have his last name published for reasons of confidentiality. Another neighbor told GBH News she had seen flight attendants enter the building since 2014.
The inspection services hear from neighbors that the project has been going on for a decade.
“The apartment has been registered annually with the ISD Housing Rental Registration Division since 2016, as required,” Daigneault said.
Inspectorates said they were looking into this claim, but doubled down that it was illegal space.
“It’s an illegal two-bedroom apartment with 20 beds,” said department spokeswoman Lisa Timberlake. She said it’s important for residents to report similar housing situations. “We can’t let people live in this kind of dangerous environment,” she said.