BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
An Elmhurst landlord is facing a lawsuit for not providing gas service since January at a 194-unit building.
Regent Equities LLC, which owns the building, located at 83-45 Broadway, is being sued by the Queens Housing Court for neglecting its residents by not providing gas services since the beginning of the year.
According to files provided by the Legal Aid Society, the tenants informed the landlord about the gas outage in January, and when he attempted to perform repair work, the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) issued a stop-work order upon inspection because the work was allegedly being conducted without a valid work permit.
The stop-work order was rescinded in February. However, the lawsuit states that the landlord failed to restore the gas services to any of the 194 families in the building.
The 45 tenants who sought help from the Legal Aid Society said that families have been forced to increase their household expenses by purchasing premade food, and that many of their neighbors have been forced to cook their food unsafely, such as by using in-home portable propane burners.
The lawsuit is demanding that the landlord fix all violations of the Housing Maintenance Code, which includes the restoration of gas services. The Legal Aid Society is also pursuing a harassment claim, seeking an order restraining further acts of harassment and imposing civil penalties as well as seeking compensatory and punitive damages from the landlord and the management company.
“Landlords have a legal obligation to provide essential services, such as cooking gas, to their tenants,” said Nelson Yeung, an attorney with the Queens Civil Practice of the Legal Aid Society. “When landlords fail to do this, tenants and their families suffer immensely. We as a city have a duty to help our neighbors who are forced to live under these conditions. The residents of this building have suffered far too long because of the landlord’s negligence and the city’s failure to monitor this situation. Enough is enough. We look forward to resolving our clients’ case in court very soon.”
The lawsuit names the landlord, the DOB and the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) for not responding to residents’ ongoing complaints.
According to the filing, the HPD is supposed to enforce the city’s Housing Maintenance Code, the Multiple Dwelling Law, and other state and local laws that impose requirements pertaining to the upkeep of residential dwellings.
Tenants can seek an order for the HPD to correct conditions. If the agency does not respond within 30 days of the complaint, tenants can take their demands to court, which they are doing in this case.
The lawsuit shows that there have been more than 20 reports of outages since the gas was shut off in January, and that there are currently six open Class C violations recorded by the HPD concerning the discontinuance of gas services.
The building also has six open violations with the DOB and two with the city’s Environmental Control Board (ECB) for plumbing and installing gas valves without a permit.
The tenants are asking that the violations be fixed and that the landlord and the HPD pay no less than $2,000 or more than $10,000 in civil penalties to each family who suffered harassment.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400, ext. 144, firstname.lastname@example.org or @reporter_ariel.