Quality in question: Buffalo landlord is linked to multiple housing code violations in University Heights
Four UB students stood in Buffalo Housing Court and called out their University Heights landlord, Jeremy Dunn, for not fixing problems in his houses.
Dunn owns close to 50 properties in the area around South Campus and UB students have complained for years that many of his homes violate safety codes. The University Heights Collaborative and Off-Campus Student Services, have each issued warnings about Dunn.
Dunn insists he is not a negligent landlord and denies that his homes are unsafe.
“If my houses were unlivable [the city] would shut them down, they have that power,” he said. He said it’s the students who destroy his property.
Students living in his homes routinely complain to The Spectrum about him as a landlord. The four students living at 58 East Northrup Place said Dunn does not respond to their concerns. They told Judge Patrick Carneythat when they moved into their home at the start of August, their house was “destroyed.”
“We tried to contact [Dunn] multiple times and he did not appear,” the students, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “When someone did show up, it wasn’t fixed properly. The holes in the wall were fixed with mesh and drywall sealer and we could literally put our finger through it.”
The students appeared in court on a separate charge, but it was Dunn and his management style that got the most attention as the students and other community members appeared to make a case against Dunn.
“[Dunn’s] places look like crap and he has no intention to cooperate with us or his residents from what it seems,” said Bernard Kunz, who lives on East Northrup. “As a landlord for student housing, you have to be an educator and he refuses to take on that role.” Dunn is not Kunz’s landlord.
Residents from five other Dunn-owned homes were also set to appear on Friday but their cases were postponed until late October.
Dunn defends his record and blames the students who he says like to throw parties and trash his houses.
“All they have to do is call me and I’d be happy to show whoever the property,” Dunn said. “But of course the house isn’t going to look great right after a party. I’m for reducing the partying because they are destroying my houses.”
Mickey Vertino, the president of the University Heights Collaborative, was also at court. His biggest concern was the safety of the students.
“I don’t have a problem with the partying, it’s expected from college students,” Vertino said. “But when the living conditions aren’t safe and there are 200 people in a house, that’s when it becomes an issue. Can you imagine if there was a fire?”
Buffalo Housing Court Liaison Fred Brace stood up in the middle of court to ask if the judge could issue an inspection of all Dunn’s properties. He felt that based on the condition of Dunn’s current properties, an inspection of all properties was justified. The judge denied Brace’s request.
Dunn feels that Brace has some hard feelings toward him.
“Brace has had a problem with me since day one. He was just looking for a way to aggravate me,” Dunn said. “What he doesn’t know is that these houses are inspected frequently.”
Homes must be inspected every three years, according to NYS housing laws and the city of Buffalo housing laws.
Dunn said that a fair number of his properties are inspected every year.
Dan Ryan,director of Off Campus Students Services, has fielded complaints about Dunn in the past. He said the court will only issue an order to vacate if inspectors find dangerous violations, such as a student living in an attic where there is only one way to exit in case of a fire.
Dunn only has two maintenance workers for his 50 properties, but he said students don’t make many requests.
“The majority of my repair requests come in between June and August, the start of the new semester,” Dunn said. “There is an infrequency throughout the year that I’d only need a large number of employees for a month then I’d need to find something else for them, or let them go.”
Tenants of 38, 163, 196 and 217 Winspear Ave. were scheduled to appear in court Friday, but the court date was moved to Oct. 26.
Out of the five houses, 163 and 217 Winspear Ave. were to appear in court due to housing code violations. There were multiple “interior problems” of these two homes caused by the residents, according to Judge Carney. There were holes in the wall and windows were boarded up from the inside.
“When police went inside there was running water and all the smoke detectors were ripped from the wall,” Carney said.
Evan Grisley is the features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org