When Star Latti moved into her Howland apartment on March 20, she had to use a bag as a toilet.
Her landlord told her the apartment would be ready for her and her husband Wayne at the start of February, but they kept delaying their move-in date as they waited for him to make improvements that never happened.
The absence of a toilet was only one problem.
Nearly a month after they moved in, exposed wires still hang from the ceiling. There are few lights, leaving the Lattis living largely in the dark. There are no doors between rooms. Water flows into the apartment when their upstairs neighbor takes a shower. There’s a toilet now, but Star and Wayne had to install it themselves.
On top of that, their landlord, Nathan Reardon, is trying to kick them out from what was advertised as a two-bedroom unit with a rent of $1,750 a month.
Reardon’s forays into residential property management form yet one more part of a constellation of dozens of companies in his name that have left in their wake unpaid wages, unpaid taxes, $100,000 in fines for labor violations and code violations that led officials in Bangor to condemn a major section of the local mall. Reardon was also the first Mainer accused of defrauding a federal pandemic business loan program.
Reardon doesn’t actually own properties he rents out in Dexter, Howland and Solon, but he serves as the landlord.
At the duplex Reardon rents out in Dexter, the local code enforcement officer may have to condemn the structure because of safety violations, and kick out the tenants. At the eight-unit property in Howland where Star and Wayne Latti rent their basement apartment, they wake up every day unsure if they’ll have heat and hot water — utilities that were supposed to be included with their rent.
Renters at two of the properties live there with the help of government rental assistance, meaning public funds are flowing to Reardon at a time when he faces trial for allegedly defrauding another government program.
In a text message to Star Latti before she and her husband moved in, Reardon described their unit as an “opportunity of a lifetime.”
“This is not an opportunity of a lifetime. It sucks,” Latti said Thursday. “We had hot water yesterday for the first time in a week.”
Reardon hasn’t responded to several requests for comment from the Bangor Daily News in recent weeks. He filed a lawsuit against the newspaper’s parent company in Penobscot County Superior Court on Friday.
Bathroom without a toilet
Star Latti signed a lease with Reardon, doing business as Ultimate Property Holdings LLC, in February, to rent an apartment in Howland she had learned about on Facebook. The apartment building is next to the Howland town office.
The lease was supposed to start Feb. 10, Latti said, but their move-in date was repeatedly delayed as Reardon said in text messages that he was working to get the unit ready.
The couple eventually moved in on March 20 after deciding they couldn’t wait any longer. A video Star Latti took on move-in day shows cabinets without doors, holes in the walls and ceilings, no toilet in the bathroom and an unfinished concrete floor.
The Lattis are relying on the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance program to pay their rent.
A receipt the BDN reviewed showed the Bangor social services agency Penquis had paid Reardon a $1,750 security deposit and would pay rental assistance to Reardon to cover the Lattis’ rent for February, March and April.
The rental assistance comes from more than $350 million Maine received through two federal coronavirus relief packages. The Maine State Housing Authority disburses the money through local agencies such as Penquis.
When Reardon was accused in April 2021 of fraudulently obtaining a $60,000 pandemic business loan, he agreed as a bail condition that he wouldn’t apply for any pandemic-related financial assistance without a probation officer’s approval.
Landlords have to apply for the rental assistance if they receive the payments directly, as Reardon is, according to the Maine State Housing Authority. The authority and Penquis declined to comment on Reardon.
Michael Penders, the deputy chief U.S. probation officer for Probation and Pretrial Services in Maine, confirmed Reardon’s bail conditions but declined to say whether he sought an officer’s approval to apply for rental assistance.
Now, Reardon is trying to kick the Lattis out for nonpayment of rent.
On April 1, a notice with big, bold letters reading “MAINE NOTICE TO QUIT – NONPAYMENT OF RENT” appeared at the Lattis’ apartment. But the document doesn’t have any dates on it. The emergency rental assistance program also prohibits landlords from evicting tenants for nonpayment during the months their rent is covered.
While Reardon tries to kick them out, the Lattis said they are already looking for a new place to live.
Howland Code Enforcement Officer Nelson Cramer said he has had little involvement with the property where the Lattis live and could not say whether the building was up to code. He said the property falls squarely in the jurisdiction of the state fire marshal’s office.
However, Greg Day, inspection supervisor for the northern division of the fire marshal’s office, said it’s up to Howland officials to enforce local code.
Not the owner
Reardon has presided over properties he doesn’t own in at least three Maine counties at more than a dozen sites, according to a BDN review of his business locations obtained from business filings, code enforcement records, lawsuits and Reardon’s 2021 bankruptcy filing.
Al Tempesta, the code enforcement officer in Dexter and Newport, has dealt with Reardon in both towns and hasn’t found him listed as the owner on any property where he’s set up shop. Instead, the businessman has contracts with property owners that make it difficult for them to kick Reardon out, Tempesta said.
“He enters into lease-to-purchase agreements that tie the properties up for 20 years,” he said. “The owner can’t do anything with the property. Only Nathan can.”
Under the agreements he has seen, Tempesta said it could take at least a year for a property owner to take action against Reardon for nonpayment. But Reardon can then respond with a lawsuit that further ties up the process in court, he said.
“It keeps going further, further and further,” Tempesta said.
The BDN tried to reach the listed owners of properties Reardon has occupied. They either didn’t respond to requests for comment or couldn’t be located.
In Dexter, Tempesta condemned the former Dexter Shoe factory earlier this year after a prior owner removed the sprinkler system. Now, Reardon is leasing a portion of that building and continues to bring employees in although Tempesta has deemed the building unsafe, meaning no one should be there unless they’re doing work needed to bring it up to code.
Tempesta has also found that Reardon is violating local land use rules by using the former factory’s parking lot as a junkyard because of the number of vehicles parked there. The space isn’t permitted to operate as a junkyard.
The situation is more complicated when it comes to the duplex in town that Reardon rents out to tenants who are receiving Maine State Housing Authority rental assistance, Tempesta said. The code enforcement officer has found a number of code violations. If Reardon doesn’t address them, the town will have to condemn that property, too, Tempesta said.
“There’s four people living in it. If I kick those four people out, where are they going to go?” he said.