October 17, By Tara Law
Tenants of a Long Island City apartment building have taken action against their landlord claiming that he has neglected to make repairs since a fire tore through the property so they will not return to their rent stabilized apartments.
The fire ripped through their six-unit apartment building at 10-38 47th Road in January and they are still waiting for their landlord to make repairs.
Three of the six tenants filed suit in Queens Housing Court in July against their landlord Pui Yan Ho–and management company Bethel Management–alleging that they were not repairing the units in a timely fashion. They claim that the landlord wants them gone so he can raise the rents since the property is rent stabilized, according to representatives for the tenants at Queens Legal Services.
Two of the units currently have severe fire damage, with the other units having varying damage. The building also has extensive electrical and water damage, according to Jeannie Chung and Jennifer Fernandez, attorneys at Queens Legal Services who are representing the tenants.
Electricity and water at the building is currently shut off and the windows are still boarded up.
Chung and Fernandez said that the landlord has blamed “insurance, asbestos abatement, [and] economic” issues for the delay in repairing the apartments.
However, the plaintiffs argue that Ho is just using the fire to get around rent stabilization laws.
“The Rent Stabilization Code was established to protect affordable housing in New York City,” Fernandez said. However, he added,”a landlord can circumvent these protections by delaying the repairs, causing the tenants to give up and find other housing and allowing the landlord to raise the rents.”
Bethel Management Inc. did not respond to a request for comment by the time this article was published. Meanwhile, Ho could not be reached.
Since the fire, most of the tenants have stayed with friends and family. The tenants were ordered to vacate the property after the fire by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
The tenants have not been permitted to go back and retrieve their possessions.
Queens Legal Services requested a timeframe for the repairs in May, but the management company did not respond.
Tenants said that they were frustrated with the management’s lack of communication and their inability to return to their homes after so long.
“It is now October, and seeing no work being done… I’m [now] deeply disturbed,” said longtime tenant Claire Munday. “I feel taken advantage of by the landlord and Bethel Management.”