Heights residents continue to live in hazardous conditions
Housing blitz continues; inspectors find homes on Englewood not up to code
Published: Sunday, October 6, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 21:10
Mayura Soot is continually getting bit by bed bugs in her Englewood Avenue house in the University Heights.
Because she is from India, Soot, a first-year MBA student, rented her home before even seeing it. She saw the listing on UBrents.com, a website sponsored by UB that claims “each and every of our homes and apartments include terrific locations, modern improvements, around the clock maintenance, and a ‘dream like’ living experience.”
Now, two months after Soot and her three roommates, who are also from India, moved into the house, she said her room is infested with bed bugs and her landlord is difficult to reach and doesn’t take her complaints seriously. She said she wasn’t expecting UB to sponsor a house in this condition.
“The house was handed over to us in a really bad situation,” Soot said. “We made a list of issues and forwarded it to the owner. I’ve been getting bed-bug bites. So many times I have been so frustrated, and I told [the landlord] that it is a health risk … I have lost all hopes of getting something done. I am not proud of this place and I am not at all happy.”
On Saturday, Director of Off-Campus Student Services Dan Ryan and five city inspectors examined houses on Englewood Avenue, including Soot’s home. The housing blitz – a joint effort by Off-Campus Student Services and the City of Buffalo that aims to ensure students in the Heights are living in homes that meet city codes – was the second of the semester.
“The fact is a lot of our students are living in conditions that are really unsafe,” said Ryan, who started the initiative three years ago. “We have seen too many cases where houses that hadn’t been inspected were sources of house fires and that sort of thing. And we want to make sure students are living with smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and call students’ attention to some safety precautions that will make their stay here more productive and safe.”
Upon arriving at Soot’s house, Peter Klemann, one of the city inspectors, told Soot how serious the bed-bug issue is. Soot said her brother, a New York State health practitioner, contacted her landlord to fix the problem, and the landlord told him that he didn’t know what a bed bug was.
Her roommates, Swati Priya and Manjari Varshney, who are also first-year MBA students, said their landlord is difficult to reach except when he is trying to collect rent. The furnace in the house hasn’t been able to operate at lower than 70 degrees. Priya and Manjari said they have been calling their landlord for two months to fix the problem, but he has yet to repair it.
Klemann examined the apartment above Soot’s first-floor home and asked the tenants if they had a bed-bug issue, too. The students said there were bed bugs, but the landlord, the same landlord for Soot, had fumigated the second floor last month.
Charlie Didio, one of the Buffalo inspectors on the blitz, said fumigating the top floor of a house and not the bottom is “useless.” If the entire home isn’t exterminated properly, the bed bugs from the first floor will return to the top floor, he said.
Dan Dye, a junior electrical engineering major who lives on Englewood, agrees that some of the houses in the Heights are in dangerous conditions. But he said what differentiates the good homes from the bad ones are the landlords.
Dye and his two roommates – Bryan Froimowitz, a junior business major, and Nick Palumbo, a junior civil engineering major – said their experience with their landlord, Jeff Brock, had been great thus far.
Dye said Brock is easy to contact and fixes housing issues in a timely matter. He stores his tools in the students’ basement and allows the three tenants to use them as they need. Brock also installed a security system in the home.
Leo Vousher, a senior business major at Buffalo State College, said his experience in the Heights this year is far better than last, which he attributes to his new landlord.
Last year, Vousher lived at 86 West Northrup Place in a home owned by Jeremy Dunn, who has about 65 houses in the Heights. Vousher said last year, for the first three months of the fall semester, he had a screen door without a front door. He also said the apartment was covered in graffiti, which Dunn refused to paint over, though he promised Vousher he’d do so when he signed the lease.
Vousher said six months into living in Dunn’s house, Dunn told him and his roommates they weren’t paying the full rent and then charged them $3,000 in “late fees.” Vousher said trying to sue Dunn was “useless.”