Affordable rentals are hard to come by in Ashland, and two men took advantage and operated an illegal boarding house for at least nine months, according to Ashland Fire-Rescue.
Derek Hinger, the property owner, and accomplice Rob Hisamoto converted a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in the 700 block of Elkader Street into 11 rental spaces. They were confronted Monday by city staff, including fire, police, the Building Department and Code Enforcement.
At approximately 1:15 p.m., the occupants were ordered out of the structure and the services were shut off per the inspection warrant.
Division Chief of Fire and Life Safety Ralph Sartain said he was tipped off May 17, 2018, about the illegal proceedings.
Hinger entered into a deferred plea agreement with the city Aug. 14 in which Ashland Code Enforcement would conduct inspections over a 10-month period. However, state law requires that the occupants receive notice 24 hours before an inspection.
Hinger and Hisamoto had passed all the previous inspections by allegedly ordering the tenants out and instructing them not to come back until they said so. They allegedly would then remove doors, mattresses and other personal property into moving vans to make it appear they were complying with the court order, Sartain said.
Informants tipped off officials that the boarding house was still in operation, so Ashland police sent officers to survey the house on two separate occasions after Code Enforcement had posted the property, said Police chief Tighe O’Meara.
Police observed Hinger and Hisamoto and several other unidentified males gutting the house before an inspection. In addition, Ashland police obtained video of the inside of the house Jan. 14 after getting a search warrant to look for a theft suspect.
The video was provided to the Ashland fire marshal, who obtained an administrative search warrant to shut down the boarding house.
It wasn’t clear how much money the residents saved by sharing the small space.
“There were people in their 20s and people in their 40s,” Sartain said.
However, he couldn’t disclose much information because the investigation remains open.
A press release the circumstances could become life-threatening because of the increased fire hazard.
“Enforcement in complaints of illegal occupancy are required to avert such tragedies as the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, California, on Dec. 2, 2016, where 36 people perished,” the press release said.
Sartain said Hinger and Hisamoto have an Ashland Municipal court date set for Feb. 20.