A landlord who appears to be living well in one of Boston's wealthiest suburbs while his tenant lived without heat or hot water for months saw a criminal charge dropped in court Thursday after he agreed to pay the cost of fixing the furnace and other costs.
Yao Feng of Lincoln was in Quincy District Court Thursday in lieu of his wife, the legal owner of his rental property, who had been charged with violating the state's sanitary code and was due to be arraigned.
Conditions at the Milton house they rented to Jacqueline Ashley and her family were so bad the town not only sought the criminal charges, but condemned the property.
When FOX Undercover visited during a cold snap in January, the oven and the stove's burners were on high and space heaters were blasting away.
"How would you like boiling water everyday for your kids to take a bath? Turning the oven on which is dangerous. How would you like to live like that?" Ashley said.
From outside appearances, Feng certainly isn't living like that. His recently renovated home in Lincoln fills 3,800 square feet.
"Can you tell us why the heat's not on?" FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet asked him last month.
"This is private property," Feng replied.
"The town says you're breaking the law," Beaudet said.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, really. You should talk to my attorney on this matter," Feng replied.
"You seem like you're doing pretty well here in Lincoln. Your tenant's not doing very well," Beaudet said.
"Sir, this is private property please get off my property," Feng replied.
Soon after that exchange, the town of Milton paid to fix the furnace so Ashley and her family could move back in.
In court Thursday, lawyers for Feng, the town, and the Norfolk District Attorney's office all agreed they wanted the criminal charge dismissed, to which the judge agreed. In exchange for dropping the charge, Feng reimbursed the town $2,300.
Outside court, Feng's lawyer says his client should have followed upon the problem more quickly.
But attorney Peter Aspesi also pointed the finger at Ashley, blaming her for not paying to fix the problem and deducting the cost from her rent, as she's done in the past.
"It was a situation that never should have gotten to the point that it was. The tenant obviously handled it in a manner that I think was solely to benefit her and try to continue to live there without paying rent for any length of time," Aspesi said.
Ashley is still living in the Feng's Milton house, but she's looking for a new, five-bedroom home in the town.
That's just fine with her landlord, because Aspesi says she's behind on this month's rent and if she doesn't move out voluntarily, he'll move to evict her.