EASTHAM — David and Carolyn Delgizzi own a large number of year-round rental properties on the Outer Cape, eight of them in Eastham. They have a history of ignoring the rules and leaving both tenants and local officials facing substandard conditions in their buildings. They also have a history of not paying their property taxes.
The Delgizzis, who live in Weston, are the same couple who own the Truro Motor Inn, where the housing court on July 6 evicted the last of the tenants after a years-long battle between the landlords and Truro officials over health and safety code violations.
The eight properties in Eastham appear to be in various stages of disrepair. A recent drive-by showed one building has a hole in the roof.
In 2020, Eastham officials took possession of two Delgizzi-owned condominiums on Route 6 for nonpayment of taxes, a process that dragged on for more than two years. Since then, the challenge for the town has been that each of those condos, located at 2815 and 2835 State Highway, is housed in a duplex, with the adjoining units still owned by the Delgizzis.
“We continue to struggle with bringing the buildings up to code,” Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe told the Independent. “The town owns half of each building, so it’s difficult to address some needed upgrades, such as a new roof, siding, and site upgrades.” (Neither building was the one with the hole in the roof.)
By the time the town completed the taking of the condos through the courts, only one of the two was occupied. The unoccupied unit was cleaned and then closed. The town has a plan, though.
“Our intent is to renovate the unoccupied unit and move the tenant in while we do the more extensive renovations on the occupied unit,” Beebe said. The town has signed leases with the tenants in the occupied unit.
“We worked with them to do repairs and updates,” Beebe said. “We have replaced both bathrooms, replaced flooring, bought new kitchen appliances, as the stove did not work and the fridge was not adequate, replaced plumbing and heating, added pest contracts, and insured the units.”
Next on the list is window replacement and deck repair.
Some of the repairs were covered by insurance claims; other repairs were paid for by the town or done by town staff. The tenants pay about $20,000 annually in rent, helping to cover expenses. The town appropriated $350,000 in short-term-rental tax receipts last year to complete the renovations.
The condition of the units taken by the town was surprising, Beebe said, especially considering the hefty rents the Delgizzis charged. “He’s collecting $1,600 a month in cash from these people,” she said of David Delgizzi. According to the tenants, Delgizzi wouldn’t fix anything, she said.
“He would say to the tenant, ‘You fix it,’ so they would try to fix it themselves,” Beebe said. “There were no permits pulled.”
Meanwhile the town continues to grapple with violations at the remaining eight properties owned by the Delgizzis. The tenants living in the rental units could report the violations to local officials or withhold their rent money and use it to make the repairs, but they likely fear retaliation.
The town has its fears, too. “As towns, we are cautious to approach these serious housing violations for fear of making families homeless,” Beebe said. “What happens is, landlords take advantage of this and continue to collect high rents for substandard units, not fix or repair anything, and leave folks in unsafe conditions.”
When contacted by phone, Carolyn Delgizzi declined to comment.
Jay Coburn, CEO of the Community Development Partnership, an Orleans-based nonprofit that promotes economic sustainability, which here requires a focus on affordable housing, said what the Delgizzis do is “abhorrent.”
“Everything about trying to be a renter on the Outer Cape is very challenging,” Coburn said. “When you have very, very low vacancy rates, there aren’t a whole lot of options, and confronting landlords and holding them accountable is a terrible challenge.”
What happened at the Truro Motor Inn demonstrates how ineffective the courts can be. In the Truro case, the Delgizzis were subject to a series of court orders and simply ignored them.
“It’s really criminal, and I don’t understand why the courts aren’t more supportive,” Beebe said. “You can just not obey court orders and get away with it.”
State law sets minimum standards related to fitness for habitation that must be met by all property owners. For rental properties, the state requires landlords to register their properties with the town. Eastham has a rental certificate program, overseen by its board of health, that ensures that rented properties are equipped with functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, hot water, and functioning doors, windows, and locks, and that they meet minimum sanitary codes.
All landlords must have rental certificates. But the Delgizzis have not obtained them for any of their properties. Beebe said the town plans to pursue enforcement of the certificate requirement this fall.
Coburn said the rental certificate program is key because it is a way for towns to stay on top of longterm rentals and ensure compliance.
According to Eastham’s Treasurer-Collector Maya Golding, the Delgizzis have not paid any of the property taxes they owe for 2023. The total owed is over $22,000, counting just the principal, which would be subject to 14-percent interest charges from the date they were due.
Golding will start the tax lien process, known as tax title, on properties with taxes owed in the fall. If the taxes remain unpaid, a lien will be put on the deed at the Barnstable County Registry. Amounts that are in tax title accrue interest at a rate of 16 percent.