Tenants’ Rights Coalition Sues 4th Worst Landlord on Public Advocate’s List for Dangerous Conditions

The Tenants’ Rights Coalition filed a lawsuit in Bronx Supreme Court against Moshe Piller, the fourth worst landlord on the Public Advocate’s Landlord Watchlist. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for the landlord’s breach of the warranty of habitability due to the conditions at 1775 Davidson Avenue. The Tenants’ Rights Coalition (TRC) is a partnership of The Legal Aid Society and Legal Services NYC, and is funded by the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA). Organizers from the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) helped the tenants come together to form a Tenants’ Association and take affirmative steps to hold their landlord accountable for the dangerous conditions in their building.

Residents at 1775 Davidson have been subjected to dangerous and unsanitary conditions because their landlord, Moshe Piller, has refused to address much-needed repairs in the building for several years. The residents have been forced to live without cooking gas for seven months and have been exposed to both rat and roach infestations, inadequate access to heat and hot water, and an elevator that is routinely out of service and unsafe. These offenses have resulted in 231 known HPD violations against the building and are the subject of a separate Housing Part action for repairs that the TRC filed in October on behalf of individual tenants and the Tenants’ Association.

The Tenant Rights Coalition is also filing a separate case in Bronx Supreme Court today on behalf of the Tenants’ Association and several individual tenants, asking the court to order the landlord to compensate the tenants for the reduced value of their apartments during the period when they had to live in substandard housing and without essential services. This litigation represents a new legal approach to prevent landlords from escaping accountability for their actions.

“This is not the first time we have had problems in this building,” said Yolanda Rosado, a longtime tenant. “From May 2 to November 17, 2015, I did not have any gas in my apartment. The landlord expected us to use hotplates, but they broke down quickly and wouldn’t last more than a couple of weeks. When they finally started replacing gas lines in my apartment in August, they took my cabinets down and haven’t replaced them. I currently don’t even have a sink in the kitchen. I don’t know how a landlord can take our money like this in good conscience and have us live this way.“

“The tenants of 1775 Davidson Avenue have been forced to live in apartments with mold, roaches, rats, and unreliable access to cooking gas and elevators for years,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Once again, we are using the power of the Worst Landlords list to hold an immoral landlord accountable for the dangerous and inhumane conditions that are pervasive in his buildings. New Yorkers should never be subjected to these horrors, especially in their homes, and this action serves as a continued warning that this degree of maltreatment will not go unnoticed.”

“The de Blasio Administration has increased its anti-eviction and anti-tenant harassment legal services programs to more than $60 million, ten times what it was, exactly to be able to help tenants facing these kinds of problems. There is no excuse for a landlord to refuse to maintain safe conditions and tenants throughout the City should call 311 if their landlord is acting like this one,” said HRA Commissioner Steven Banks.

“The tenants at 1775 Davidson have been asking their landlord to make repairs for years but the landlord just ignored them until they came together as a group and started the HP case in housing court this fall to compel the landlord to make repairs.” said Edmund Witter, Staff Attorney at The Legal Aid Society’s Bronx Neighborhood Office. “New Yorkers should not have to live with these hazardous and unsanitary conditions in their homes.”

“Landlords shouldn’t be allowed to walk all over tenants and treat them as if they are not human beings,” said Carolyn Norton, Staff Attorney at Legal Services NYC’s Bronx program. “Tenants pay rent and have the right to live in an environment that is safe for their families. The tenants at 1775 Davidson have been denied that right and will use every available legal option to hold Moshe Piller accountable.”