A Syracuse judge this week granted an order evicting Ericka Johnson from her apartment at Brighton Place because of her refusal to pay rent.
The eviction order can be acted on as early as Oct. 20 based on City Court Judge Vanessa Bogan’s ruling. Johnson has withheld rent payments on her two-bedroom apartment at Brighton Place since early spring, citing major issues with rodent infestations and plumbing problems.
Johnson, whose story was the subject of a Central Current article, said the problems at the apartment complex have largely gone unaddressed by its management company, Bigger Picture Developments.
The ceiling in Johnson’s living room collapsed on Sept. 21, leaking rodent waste and raw sewage into her home and rendering the place uninhabitable.
Johnson said she has not seen any repairs made on her apartment, despite the city codes department giving the landlord a deadline that has since lapsed.
She is looking for another place to live. She is staying with relatives for now, and has struggled to find a new apartment. She said rent has gone up on the city’s South Side and there aren’t a lot of good options.
“I’ve been looking around and calling around and landlords want $1,100 to $1,200 a month,” she said. “These aren’t even big three-bedroom apartments.”
Syracuse’s Division of Code Enforcement found five major code violations at Johnson’s apartment. It had set a date of Oct. 12 for those violations to be addressed. In a memo sent to Brighton Your Day LLC, the property owners, city officials said the following repairs needed to be made:
- Repair all damaged ceilings and walls in the living room kitchen and stairway areas.
- Fix the structure’s basement door.
- Address a bathroom window that cannot be opened.
- Seal the window in the apartment’s master bedroom so it is weather-tight.
- Repair the thermostat.
Johnson said she received a notice from management indicating repairs would begin on Sept. 30, but as of publication, the concerns raised by the city remain unaddressed.
Brooke Schneider, Syracuse’s senior public information officer, said in an email that the city has been in contact with representatives from Bigger Picture Developments and is ensuring that the violations will be addressed.
In most cases, she added, city codes would send a legal warning after the comply-by date. If the property is still not in compliance after a couple of weeks, the city would then pursue fines through its Bureau of Administrative Adjudication or civil action through its legal arm, Schneider said.
“However, per management, this tenant is being evicted and management will correct the violations once the apartment is vacated,” she added. “If the code violations are not corrected, codes will pursue the fines or legal action as it would with any building or property.”
Schneider added the codes department is “keeping a close eye on the case of this apartment and will intervene if or when necessary.”
Johnson’s issues are not isolated. She is a member of the Brighton Place Tenants Association, which formed in April after 25 tenants from the 38 apartments at the complex decided to start a rent strike. Tenants said they would withhold rent until management fixed problems including sewage backup in basements, lack of heating, pest infestations, and ill-fitting windows, doors, and floorboards.
Seven members of the Brighton Place Tenants Association filed a lawsuit in Onondaga County Supreme Court in September, describing what they deemed “dangerous and disgusting housing conditions” across the complex.
Tenants argue in the suit that the complex’s overall state of disrepair is a breach of the “warranty of habitability,” a provision of state law which makes landlords responsible for keeping your apartment safe and livable at all times.
“This case is about tenants getting what they pay for and the landlord providing what it is obligated to provide,” the complaint says. “People should not live with feces regularly backing up and pooling on their basement floors. When a person rents an apartment with appliances, those appliances should be fit for purpose. People should not live with roaches and mice crawling on the walls, floors, counters, furniture, sinks, everywhere, day and night.”
The suit calls for immediate and proper repairs from licensed contractors, as well as accurate rent account statements and restitution for rents overpaid or not owed due to what tenants describe as “substandard housing conditions.”
Monica King, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who has resided at Brighton Place for several years, noted tenants have received notices of increases in rent with no seeming explanation behind them in recent months.
King said she sees biweekly raw sewage inflows in her basement
“I want to wait for this lawsuit to get going and see what is going to happen because I’m not giving them any money until they fix this,” she said.
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