Battling a landlord to get heat, water back on

Seven On Your Side
May 3, 2013 8:16:29 PM PDT
A group of tenants was left shivering for more than a year without heat and hot water.

The building is a hot potato in a contentious divorce proceeding.

For more than a month, 7 On Your Side and a local politician have been trying everything to make their building livable.

15-year tenant Georgia Piazza's frustrated and freezing.

On this chilly early spring morning only a plug-in hot plate heats the kitchen. There's no gas to the radiator or the stove.

"It's been horrible for the past 15 months. We have no heat. No hot water, Piazza said.

In the hallway there is a constant reminder they live in danger as the carbon monoxide detector beeps.

And an extension cord snakes up three floors to power one bare bulb lighting the common areas.

Facing a daunting task we combined 7 On Your Side's muscle with the hustle of Queens council member Jimmy Van Bramer.

"You're entitled to better. You need better. And we'll get you there," Council member Jimmy Van Bramer said.

Halleluiah. We started at the bottom. The basement.

There we found a warren of exposed wires. The tenants say controls for the heat were ripped out by their landlord who wants them out.

"It's harassment. It's all harassment," Piazza said.

"He is clearly, intentionally and purposefully endangering the lives of these people who live in this building," Van Bramer said.

7 On Your Side turned up the heat on him tracking the landlord down on his way into divorce court.

"The problem is the tenants have no heat and hot water," Nina Pineda said.

"I have no money to fix anything," said Frank Campos, the landlord.

He blamed his tenants who admit they stopped paying rent after a judge ordered him to restore their services.

"Isn't this your responsibility to keep up the building?" Pineda asked.

"Yeah, that's what the judge says," Campos said.

The city's slapped him with more than 90 fines, but there are still no results.

"We've been applying a lot of pressure to the agencies, trying to get them out here," Van Bramer said.

After 7 On Your Side joined the councilman's crusade about the condition of the building HPD showed up that afternoon.

New gas lines were installed, and the broken gas meters were replaced with brand new ones.

New lights illuminate the stairways, and the trickling water now flows full force.

Also the burners on the stove work once again.

"Is this a simple joy of being able to boil water in your apartment?" Pineda said.

"Oh yes! I'm so happy to be able to boil water!" Piazza said, "If it wasn't for you guys this never would've happened! Thank you so much!"