Rochester tenants living in substandard conditions call for creation of Housing Court

Rochester tenants living in substandard conditions call for creation of Housing Court

Overview

By Cristina Domingues

ROCHESTER. N.Y. — No gas. No gas at all.

Jesus Miranda moved into an apartment at 960 Dewey Ave in Rochester six months ago.

“The hot water, you turn it on, and nothing. Nothing comes out,” said Miranda.

Newly divorced, Jesus moved there to re-start his life. Sometimes his children stay with him, but he’s worried because it’s just not safe.

“I pay $595 [for rent,]” said Miranda.

After learning of the problems last week, Rochester inspectors told tenants to leave the building.

Jesus, who works at Walmart, says he tried, but not many apartments he can afford are available right now for rent.

He says Human Services turned him down too.

“They told me in less than five minutes my income was too high,” said Miranda. “I just come here every day after working a 12-hour shift and the only thing I want to do is go home to a warm place and eat something and have dinner, and go to sleep.”

The City-Wide Tenant Union of Rochester says the problems are not unique. Rochester Asset Management owns that building and several others the union says have similar problems: no heat, no hot water, broken windows and moldy apartments. And there are other buildings and other landlords.

It wants the state to enact the Dignified Housing Act that would allow for the creation of a Housing Court in Rochester. Union members say those exist in Buffalo and in New York City.

The union says tenants can complain to the city if there are issues, but have limited legal recourse if landlords do not comply.

“A tenant can choose not to pay rent and then the landlord can take them to court. If they’re taken to court, then they can raise the issue of habitability. They can call a habitability hearing and the judge can say ‘you don’t’ have to pay some of your rent.’ But unfortunately in this situation, the tenants are always on the defensive. So they can only go to court and raise the issues with the judge if they are taken to court first. In other places, they can initiate the case,” said Ryan Acuff, Tenant Union and Take Back the Land Rochester.

The union says city and county leaders have reached out and want to help. There are meetings planned for later this week. They’re hoping state leaders will also get on board.

Jesus says he’s not sure what he’ll do next. He’s hoping that united, they’ll be heard and changes will come.

“And not just fix it for right now,” said Miranda. “Next winter, it can be the same problem again. Just fix it for good. That’s the only thing we ask.”

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