Tenants share landlord horror stories at town-hall meeting

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Dozens of distraught Brooklyn tenants shared their landlord horror stories at a packed town-hall meeting at Borough Hall last Tuesday.

Borough President Adams said he organized the meeting, the first of three this month, to crack down on bad landlords who intentionally harass their tenants out of rent-stabilized apartments. The building owners know they will only be slapped with minor fines if they’re caught — so authorities need to raise the stakes and start prosecuting them in court, he said.

“They’re laughing at those fines. They see it as the cost of doing business,” said Adams. “And we want to say to them that the cost of doing business is going to become so expensive that they’ll want to do the right thing.”

Tenants, many tearful, complained of landlords hiking up their rents without notice, completing often-shabby renovations on the buildings to justify the hikes, refusing to make repairs, allowing apartments to be overrun by vermin, and, in some cases, suddenly kicking residents out.

One Fort Greene resident claimed that her building’s current and previous landlords have bought-out many rent-stabilized tenants and raised their units’ fees to market-rate, and have made life difficult for the tenants who have stayed put.

“Those few like myself who have refused to leave have been constantly harassed, either by refusal of repairs or building amenities are not being taken care of,” said Robin McClary, an 11-year resident of 301 Cumberland St., a six-floor, 42-unit building between Lafayette and Greene avenues.

McClary said that her stove was broken for 10 months, and she had to get three court orders before the building’s former landlord Dermot Realty Management Company made the repairs.

A spokesperson for the company denied that it was an issue, despite being shown proof of the court orders.

“At Dermot, we treat all of our tenants with the highest level of regard and should a conflict arise, we resolve the issue in an effective and timely manner. Any contradicting allegation is simply inaccurate,” said a representative.

The trouble continued, McClary said, when A and E Real Estate Management took over the building in February and allegedly issued her with a letter demanding rent she had already paid, dating back to 2008. McClary claims she has asked the company for proof several times, but all she has received in response is threats to cough up the cash.

“Their response to my request for the rent statement is to send me a letter to say, ‘pay us up or we’re going to take legal action,’ ” she said.

Another tenant in the building said the company has left him stranded several times when the lock on the building’s front door has broken.

“They’ve been mysteriously slow leaving locks broken for days at a time so people can’t get in and out of the building,” said Dan Sallitt, who said he did not have an issue with Dermot, and that A and E has not asked him to shell out rent he has already paid.

Adams has recruited a team of lawyers to attend the meetings and listen to the tenants’ stories so they can investigate the claims and file criminal suits against the worst offenders.

Landlords who own rent-regulated buildings in the borough’s booming real-estate market have a financial incentive to harass rent-regulated tenants out of their units so they can jack up the rent or sell the building to developers, and low-income tenants often don’t have access to lawyers to fight back on their own, said Martin Needelman, the co-executive director and chief counsel at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, who was on-hand at the assembly to offer advice.

Civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, who ran the meeting with Adams, told many of those who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting that he would be in touch. They might not succeed, he said, but at least the tenants will get their day in court.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean we make a judgment that you win,” Siegel said. “But we make a judgment that it’s worth the fight.”

The Beep is holding his meetings amid what law-makers and enforcers say is a new city-wide war on abusive landlords.

In April, authorities filed criminal charges against Bushwick and Greenpoint landlords Joel and Amron Israel for allegedly breaking into their rent-stabilized tenants’ units and destroying them in order to force them out. And last month, police arrested landlord Daniel Melamed for allegedly harassing tenants out of his Crown Heights building by cutting their heat in the middle of winter and exposing them to toxic lead dust.

Adams and his team of attorneys held a second town hall on tenant harassment at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant on July 16, and will hold the third on July 28 at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

A and E Real Estate Management did not respond to requests for comment.

Tenant harassment town hall at State University of New York Downstate Medical Center (450 Clarkson Ave. between New York Avenue and E. 37th Street in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, (718) 802–2682]. July 28 at 6 pm.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

My landlord sucks thank you HPD from Brooklyn says:
The real issue is HPD is a hot mess on so many levels. Last event I attended there was a rep from HPD with a title of Deputy Commissioner Neighborhood Strategies, he gives me his biz card and his voice mail has been full for months, you call his office and nobody returns phone calls. How HPD decides on their developers, property managers is a big issue and needs to be examined. But, when you write to City Hall the tale of two cities staff ignore all constituent letters. Our buildings issues were written in detail to the then public advocate Deblasio and his staff wouldn't respond because Deblasio is in the pockets with REBNY and this developer/landlord gave him a ton of money. Good luck addressing this to Emma Wolf the alleged Chief of Staff since she seems to be a real useless staffer who wouldn't even meet with our building to discuss the criminal charges of the landlord/developer. Now these useless staffers from the public advocates office all work for the wonder why tenant issues are an ongoing problem.
July 23, 2015, 9:04 am
Rabindranauth Badree from myrtle on Grove says:
I am a landlord and I live in Brooklyn in the building. TENANT hits my door constantly in the wee morning - 2:am, 1 :am. why does she hit my door at that time , until now I still want to know. I am scared for my life because I am by myself in the night, my husband goes to work in the evening
my only kid does not live with us anymore. I am scared for my LIFE.
Here is another issue, I knocked on this very tenant door for my rent (2 months rent) she open
the door and "do not hit my door, u r disturbing me, and I do not have the rent." That is fine I can understand, but, after this,tenant, called the police on me. Why? for asking for my rent? She is on a stipulation agreement, and she was suppose to give us the rent in a timely manner without any problems. Another time I ask the son to ,tell his mother "can u tell yr mom if she has the rent if she can give us. This lady came hitting my door, BANG! BANG! so I opened the door and she took off on me "saying do not speak to my children, if u speak to them I will call the police on u and get u arrested. I got so scared, I had to call to report this matter. This lady is in court with us. She owed us almost $14000.00. We had to take her to court for the rent. We took her to court and finally got a money judgment. She is a trouble maker. She has 3 kids and she does not supervise the kids - they jump and make noise until 3:am disturbing all other tenants, below her (87 year old couple) I live on the same floor , she disturbs me, and the other tenants that live below on the first floor. We all hear the noise. We need rest and QUIET MOMENTS. Another issue she pours water down
on the senior citizen damaging the walls and when we confront her she denies it . "she says it is not her. It is an ongoing problem with her. We have to end up doing the repairs on the walls over and over again. So we stopped telling her about water coming down from her apt just for PEACE. We took pictures of all the times this has been happening and we made the senior citizen lady that lives beneath her sign the the back of the pictures.
I have another issue with another tenant, She OPENED apt back window and sent VERIZON TECHICIAN into my backyard without landlord permission. I just got out of bed that day and I am looking out of my back window, only to see a man
in my backyard. HELLO we give him a call out
he started arguing saying VERIZON owns part of this property to check my DEED. What a BULLY!
I called the COPS and they escorted him out of the building.
Then later on in the day this very next tenant who owes us 3 months rent and keeps saying next week, I forgot my money at my job I put the rent under the door, from bounce checks, to counterfeit monies and lists excuse goes on and on never pays in time always late for the past 3 years of his tenancy in my building.
My husband the very day went to this tenant apt to ask for his rent
they started a LOUD heated argument. I heard the LOUD argument in my basement KNOWING MY HUSBAND IS THERE ON THE THIRD FLOOR TO GET THE RENTS so I came up nervous AND I IN THE HALLWAY asking for help and saying to my husband "COME OUT FROM THE people's APT BEFORE U GET BEATEN UP AND PUNCHED IN THE FACE COME OUT COME OUT OF THERE please come out before u get beaten up. this is too much. My husband heard me and he came out. They never give him the rent. They called the POLICE on me saying I SAID " I was going to hit the lady. I never said anything to them. I was trying to SAVE my POOR husband who is a very quiet man, does not know to fight from getting hurt by these NASTY people.
Where are the rights of LANDLORD. The landlord does not having a saying. this is getting to a point where we hope someone can hear our voice and our DRAMA FROM THESE wicked TENANTS. The rules are so messed up. Someone needs to review the rules for TENANTS. If a LANDLORD DOES not want a tenant to be living in their apt . Then the tenant should have to leave. cause it has got to be something that is happening, its some reason landlord does not want these tenants living in their building.
HARD to be where I am at. We never got anything for FREE in AMERICA. I lived a VERY POOR AND QUIET LIFE and we followed our dreams and worked towards our GOALS to be successful citizens of America. I came from a third world country and I enjoyed working every minute for America. Anyone can make it in this country if u try.
Thank u

its too much problems with these TENANTS who believe they have a right not to pay rents to their landlord. Its not FAIR landlords have much bills to pay for these LOUSY people.
Thank you
Landlord of Brooklyn

July 30, 2015, 3:07 pm

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