June 11, By Michael Florio
Rats, roaches and collapsing ceilings are just some of the issues tenants of a Corona apartment building claim they are being forced to deal with.
Tenants of The George Washington, located at 96-10 37th Ave, gathered yesterday with an attorney from Community Development Project Urban Justice Center to announce that they have just filed a lawsuit against their landlord, Benedict Realty Group (BRG).
Fifty-seven of the 76 households who live in the building have filed a class-action lawsuit against the landlord, claiming that they have had to deal with untreated rat and cockroach infestation; no heat and hot water; hazardous mold; exposed electrical wires; cracks in the walls and floors; and collapsing ceilings, according to Keriann Pauls, the attorney representing the tenants.
Daniel Benedict, president of BRG, was surprised by the suit. He said that the company has never faced a lawsuit like this and that he takes pride in the way it maintains its buildings.
Benedict said BRG has spent more than $600,000 on the building in the past 18 months, installing new elevators, new front doors, a new compactor and chute and upgraded electrical systems.
“Further, we have an online work order submission system and we have not received any formal complaints related to the matters you address,” Benedict said.
“When we were recently notified that one tenant complained to HPD last week of a hole in their apartment, appropriate arrangements were made to repair it,” he added.
However, the tenants say the quality of the building has deteriorated in the past three years, since BRG took ownership.
Pauls said that the building has more than 100 city code violations.
Jose Mencia, who has lived in the building since 1964, claims the landlord wants to get rid of the tenants in the rent-stabilized units, and by offering substandard conditions it will force them out.
“Once anyone moves, they remodel the entire apartment so they can jack up the rent,” he said. “They want to de-regulate the entire building.”
The case was filed earlier this week, and it is now up to the judge to see how the matter should be resolved.
Pauls said that she is hoping that the case will not drag on, so the repairs are made.
“Some residents may see results quicker than others, depending on the issues that need to be resolved,” she said.