Bronx tenants file suit against landlord

November 17, 2009 2:44:47 PM PST
Tenants in a Bronx apartment complex are taking things into their own hands. They are filing a lawsuit against the owner of the building because they say the building is falling apart. They have even lived without an elevator for more than a year. Annette Montalvo showed off the toxic-looking black mold that rims the bathtub of her apartment. She wonders whether it's compromising the health of her family.

"I'm concerned about my son's health, my health and safety," she said. "I don't feel safe at all."

And she's not alone. That's why dozens of tenants have filed a lawsuit against the landlord of 1380 University Avenue. They accuse University Residence, a limited liability corporation, of failing to provide safe housing conditions and make timely repairs, including fixing constantly broken elevators, eliminating a rodent problem and cleaning filthy, smelly stairwells.

"You don't have to be an attorney to know that the housing maintenance code is not optional," Urban Justice Center attorney Marie Tatro said.

Jacqueline Colon has kept track of the repairs she has made on her own in her 12th-floor two-bedroom, though no amount of plaster and paint can disguise the persistent leaky ceiling. The expectant mother says the work and worry has taken a toll.

"I've never been a high risk," she said "I've never had a C-section. I have normal delivery and due to all this stress and money coming out of my pocket to fix my apartment. It's been difficult."

Eyewitness News tried to get a response from the management company and landlord, but got no reply.

A housing court judge has set a first court appearance in this case for January 4. Tenants are hoping the court will force the landlord to make the needed repairs.