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Tenants Take Nonprofit Landlord to Court

January 13, 2009

1892In September, 57 tenants living in 1892 Morris Ave. took their nonprofit landlord, Mount Hope Housing Company, to court for neglecting the building and ignoring their maintenance requests.

The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) on-line database lists 438 open violations for the address. Forty-one are class C (immediately hazardous), 295 are class B (hazardous) and 102 are class A (non-hazardous). Many of the class C violations are rat-related.

“We’re living like dogs,” said Joyce Hilliard, a third floor resident and president of the tenants association.

Hilliard said a rat bit a sleeping boy about a year ago. Bernice King, the former president of the tenants association, said that rodents repeatedly chew out the insulation and wiring in the back of her stove.

Mount Hope attempted to address the rat infestation in the building last year by cleaning and locking the trash chutes, tenants say, but to no avail.

Residents now take their trash to bins located in the dimly lit alleyway outside, close to where fourth floor resident, David Perez, 17, said he was followed into the building in October and robbed of his cell phone at gunpoint.

Perez’s uncle attempted to obtain the video surveillance tape from Mount Hope but the cameras aren’t working, Perez said.

The elevators are another source of anxiety for Perez who has been stuck in them enough times now that he only takes the stairs.

This winter, the building has often been without heat and hot water, Hilliard added.

At a Housing Court hearing in November, Judge Herald R. Klein ordered Mount Hope Housing Company to fix all class C violations by Jan. 9, the date of their next hearing. But nothing changed said residents.

“We go through this process, we do the right thing but still nothing gets fixed,” Hilliard said.

At the Jan. 9 hearing, Klein adjourned the session until Feb. 17 – to the dismay of residents. 

Klein explained that the adjournment would allow Mount Hope more time to make progress on the repairs.

If they fail to substantially address the demands of the stipulation, tenants can file a motion of contempt, which, if successful, could result in fines for Mount Hope, said Urban Justice Center attorney Marie Tatro who is representing the tenants. 

Some residents have already taken matters into their own hands. Shortly after the November court ruling, tenants in 57 of the building’s 110 apartments – the same tenants who filed the Housing Part action – began withholding rent, Hilliard said.

Mount Hope Housing Company representatives declined to comment citing ongoing litigation. They advised residents with complaints to call their Customer Service Hotline at (866) 279-6388.

The Morris Avenue building, known as St. Edmunds Court, is Mount Hope’s flagship building, the first of 31 acquired by the organization, a non-profit founded in 1986 to address poor housing conditions in the area. They also provide youth development and job training services.  

Veteran resident Patricia Veal said that when she first moved into the building in 1989, Mount Hope staff “went the extra mile” to maintain the complex. She believes the high staff turnover is to blame for the falloff in building maintenance. 

Veal added, “I’m very disappointed with Mount Hope. There’s been a big change, [a] big decline.”

By REBECCA CHAO

Editor’s note: The Mount Hope Monitor is published with support from Mount Hope Housing Company.

Comments

2 Responses to “Tenants Take Nonprofit Landlord to Court”

  1. Mount Hope Provides Quality Affordable Housing : Mount Hope Monitor on February 9th, 2009 4:37 pm

    [...] note: This letter is in response to the recent news article in the January issue of the Monitor that detailed concerns raised by tenants at 1892 Morris Ave., [...]

  2. CEO Promises New Day for Embattled Housing Company : Mount Hope Monitor on November 10th, 2009 4:21 pm

    [...] September 2008, approximately 50 tenants living in 1892 Morris Ave. took Mount Hope to court for failing to maintain the building.  That November they began a rent strike which continues to [...]

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