POPLAR GROVE – More former tenants of a Harvard-based landlord accused of neglect of several properties have come forward accusing the landlord, William Perez, of similar issues. The tenants from his most recent condemned property spoke with us and showed us pictures of the raw sewage they were exposed to.
“We lived in raw sewage for days and he said it was okay,” said Tyrone White.
White, his girlfriend plus her two kids rented theState Streetproperty William Perez owned in Poplar Grove. White says problems started for his family after neighbors had work done on their septic system. It caused raw sewage to seep into his home’s two bathrooms, preventing his family from keeping hygiene without the aid of bottled water and paper towels. But when White says he called Perez, he says he was nowhere to be found.
“The first three days we were trying to get in touch with the landlord, you know? What do we do?” said White.
Perez finally sent someone to fix the problems. White claims the worker who came out to rectify the issue had commented to him that he had been at the property before and said the pipes to the house were broken. According to White, Perez had instructed the handyman to just snake the pipes, which White says just made matters worse.
“Whatever they did to the pipes, it seemed like the smell wasn’t even that bad at first,” said White. “But it’s like they opened up a whole new avenue with this and it got real bad.”
Since the health department condemned the property last week, White and his family are now homeless. He says both he and his girlfriend are unemployed. They were put up in a hotel for a week thanks to several charity organizations, but now they must stay with friends until they can find work and another place to live.
WTVO/WQRF has had repeated contact with William Perez, but he has repeatedly declined the opportunity to do an interview. Michelle Courier,BooneCountyState’s Attorney, says she’s aware of the issue and is now reviewing the file to decide whether to pursue legal action against Perez.
We just found out today that Perez doctored a letter from the county’s health department to give to the family from yesterday’s story involving the same property but different tenants. Those tenants, theDowns, say they’re in contact with a lawyer regarding their eviction under false pretense.
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Alderman Thomas Hoffay, D-Ward 2, the council’s majority leader, said the council’s Laws and Rules Committee has passed an amendment to the Landlord Registration Law to require owners of rental properties to notify tenants of the new regulation.
The committee made its decision on Tuesday.
On Nov. 7, the Common Council agreed to the Tenant Accountability Act, a law originally proposed by Mayor Shayne Gallo. Continued…
The Tenant Accountability Act, among other things, requires that:
• Residential premises “be maintained in a clean, safe, sanitary condition.”
• Yards, courts and vacant lots be kept clean and free of hazards.
• Extension cords be used only for purposes intended and shall not “be run or laid under rugs or carpets or used as additional electrical wiring.”
• Grounds, buildings and structures be maintained “free of insect, vermin and rodent harborage and infestation.”
• Adequate sanitary facilities “be used for the collection, storage, handling and disposal of garbage refuse.”
• Domestic animals and pets “be kept in an appropriate manner so as not to constitute a hazard or nuisance and under control.”
• Pet waste be promptly “collected and disposed of in a sanitary manner.”
Violators of the law face a maximum penalty of 15 days in jail and a $250 fine.
The proposal also states smoke detectors shall not be removed or damaged and that “it shall be the duty of the occupant of any residential premise to keep and maintain such smoke detectors located within the dwelling unit, or sleeping room, in good repair and operable during their occupancy of such a dwelling unit.” Continued…
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Under the law, if the city issues two disruptive conduct reports for tenants at the same rental property within 12 months, the landlord’s residential rental permit for the individual apartment will immediately be revoked.
Should the landlord not begin eviction proceedings against anyone living in the rental within 15 days of receiving notice of the permit revocation, the apartment would be considered unfit for occupancy.
Harrisburg is cracking down on “disruptive” people in rental properties.
The law, which goes into effect on Dec. 4, considers disruptive conduct any violation of any city law that can “reasonably” be deemed to disrupt the peace of neighbors or cause damage to neighboring properties.
It will not shut down an entire multiple-unit rental property. Bill 12 only affects the rental housing disruptive tenants. And after a landlord evicts problem tenants from a unit, they again can rent the space.
City Council members and Mayor Linda Thompson said the law protects property owners from disruptive neighbors, will drive away slum landlords and help preserve property values.
But the Capital Area Rental Property Owners Association says the bill is an overreach and unfairly targets landlords and tenants. It will hit investors in the wallet when they can least afford it in the down economy, said Arthur Sullivan, CARPOA president.
“Is City Council setting up a double standard? People who rent homes are still citizens of the city, and as such, all the [same] laws and regulations also apply to them. What I am asking City Council to do is to apply the laws currently on the book,” Sullivan said. “CARPOA is researching the possibility of taking court action to oppose the enforcement of this new bill.”
If property owners rent to quality tenants, they have no reason to worry about the law, Thompson said. She said the bill was drafted in her office and is part of her three-prong fight against blight.
“I would find it difficult to believe that a responsible landlord would reject this legislation,” Thompson said. “[Landlords] wouldn’t want [disruptive neighbors] in their neighborhoods, so how dare [they] expect us to have it in our neighborhood.
“This legislation should have been enacted years ago,” she said. “This does not affect the good landlord. We are going to run the bad guys out. This is the toughest slum landlord action taken in recent city history.”
Violations of Harrisburg’s property maintenance code is considered disruptive conduct under the law.
And should property owners notified of maintenance code violations not take corrective action within the time allotted to them in notices, the city is able to perform repair work on its own, charge owners for work and materials and tack on an additional 10 percent of repair costs.
It affects your whole life when you are next to a house with disrespectful neighbors. … You become a prisoner in your own house.”
Councilwoman Patty Kim, who is set to leave the board to become Harrisburg’s state representative, said she hopes the law acts as a deterant.
Kim said she personally knows how it feels to live next to disruptive neighbors.
She had hoped the bill would impose a more-lenient four-strikes-and-your-out mandate against landlords instead of two. But she said protecting residents from unruly neighbors was a top priority.
“It affects your whole life when you are next to a house with disrespectful neighbors. You feel like your house is a refuge, and then you become a prisoner in your own house,” Kim said. “I am trying to fight for those residents who invested in their house and deserve peace and quiet in their own homes.”
Kim is a landlord herself and said she “goes to great lengths to find quality tenants.” Too many landlords rent properties to tenants without conducting background checks simply to get a monthly rent check, she said.
The law might be perceived as unfair by landlords, but Kim agreed that it would not affect responsible rental property owners.
Larry Hatter disagrees.
Council may have the right intent at heart, but by adopting the law, it has unwittingly pushed a police responsibility onto the backs of landlords, said Hatter, chairman of the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors’ Government Affairs Committee.
The law likely will force landlords to evict tenants who, even though they were loud on occasion, pay their rent and haven’t broken leases, Hatter said.
“The purpose for government is to provide protection and the first thing [council did] was cede the responsibility of protection to the landlord,” he said. “It infringes on private property rights without a doubt. That is the first issue when you get down to the constitutional issue of the matter here.”
Hatter added that “[The law] is not within the landlord/tenant laws. How can I evict somebody when they are in compliance with their lease?”
Often, Harrisburg rental property owners are “mom-and-pop” investors with two to 10 properties in the city, Sullivan said.
Much of the housing stock they buy and rent in Harrisburg is old and takes significant financial and “blood, sweat and tears” investment, he said.
The new law will make it less attractive for those investors to do business in the city going forward because they could easily lose their rental permits through no fault of their own, Sullivan said.
Jason Lucas owns 20 rental properties in Harrisburg and 20 others within 40 minutes of the city.
With council adopting the new law, Lucas said he will not buy another rental property in the city, where it already is hard to attract tenants because of Harrisburg’s debt crisis, crime and poverty rate, poorly performing schools and high utility costs.
“I have so many problems being a landlord in a bankrupt city,” Lucas said. “I can’t believe I have to be responsible for my tenants’ actions and evict people because the government tells me to.
“You only rent to people who live in that neighborhood,” he said. “And if you try to rent to people better than that neighborhood you screw yourself because they will move out after a few months.
“We deal with the pool of people the city attracts,” he said. “They attract the demographics that live there and we have to live with them.”
Since 2007, Arizona has had a law allowing domestic-violence victims to terminate their leases early and move, without penalty, to protect their safety.
But that hasn’t helped Anne Koshinski, who said her landlord refused to return her security deposit and threatened to collect the remaining four months’ rent due on her lease when she moved out after her abusive former boyfriend moved in across the street.
Koshinski isn’t alone, said Anthony Young, executive director of Southern Arizona Legal Aid.
Sometimes, landlords don’t know about the law, and, in some cases, he said, landlords try to intimidate tenants or keep them in the dark about their rights, Young said.
Koshinski’s ex-boyfriend was evicted from the Monterey Gardens Apartments, 1039 N. Alamo Ave., where both lived in separate apartments.
The relationship was stormy, Koshinski said, including domestic violence and culminating in her filing an order of protection with Tucson police. She doesn’t want to leave the Monterey Gardens but doesn’t feel safe with her ex living across the street, she said.
The Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act allows tenants to terminate a lease when domestic violence is involved without being liable for security deposits or future rent, if they present the landlord with a protective order or a police report. But when she submitted her order of protection and request to end her lease on Sept. 27, Koshinski said, Northpoint Asset Management, which manages the complex, refused.
David Walsh, Northpoint’s president and chief marketing officer, said his firm has received legal counsel on Koshinski’s case and is not in violation of the law, but he would not comment further.
“Well, the landlord is just wrong,” Young, from Southern Arizona Legal Aid, said. He said about half the people coming to his office state they are victims of domestic violence, and an order of protection alone is enough to get tenants out of a lease.
Young advises domestic-violence victims who must move to present the landlord with the law and relevant documents such as an order of protection, and if they don’t comply, to seek legal help from offices like his. He said it is especially important for people with a Section 8 low-income housing subsidy to follow the letter of the law because a lawsuit could result in losing assistance.
“A huge dynamic of domestic violence is displacement,” said Stephanie Noriega, who works with housing issues at Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse. She estimates 150 people each month look for help with relocation from Emerge, with requests ranging from a place to stay for the night to permanent relocation resources.
Economic issues are the biggest reason victims struggle to get away from abusers and the places abusers can easily find them, Noriega said. But, she added, victims often don’t know about the statute that could ease those concerns.
The Arizona Multi-Housing Association, which was involved in passage of the law, referred questions to Becky Noel, Crime Free Multi-Housing Officer with the Tucson Police Department, which just completed its final training session of the year on Arizona tenant law for landlords and property managers.
The protection of the law is twofold – it helps victims move, and it allows landlords to remove suspects from leases and avoid incidents on their properties, Noel said. “It’s a win-win,” she said, good for everyone’s safety.
While losing income might be a concern for landlords, Noel said she believes that the statute is rarely used.
The law also provides property owners the right to seek compensation for losses from the person cited in an order of protection.
In a case like Koshinski’s, that is the ex-boyfriend, according to Young.
For her part, Koshinski is going ahead with her move even though her hopes of getting her $150 deposit back are slim.
“I hope it all works out,” she said, “but at least I can walk away knowing I did the right thing.”