Consumer Alert: Our search for the landlord of a dilapidated Rochester rental

Consumer Alert: In search of a landlord

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Today’s Consumer Alert takes you on a search for a landlord. You’ll remember Wednesday we showed you a rented home without heat or hot water. On Thursday I went looking for the landlord.

The Rochester renter I featured in Wednesday’s story has been failed on several fronts.  She says her landlord refused to make repairs for months.  Then when she reported the problems to the city’s code enforcement department, she says it initially failed to make repairs as well.

We’ll call the renter Cathy.  She’s asked that we hide her identity because she’s a victim of domestic violence.  She says she’s lived at the Rochester home for a year without heat.  When I visited her on Wednesday afternoon, it was 49 degrees inside the home.  

She also has no hot water because the hot water heater is broken as well. And while there’s a basketball-sized hole in the bathroom, that’s not Cathy’s major concern. Instead, she worries about flushing the toilet. That’s because raw sewage pours onto her basement floor from a broken pipe.

I’ve called the landlord repeatedly and gotten no answer.  So, on Thursday I went to his home and knocked on the door.  I counted three cars, two trucks and a van in the driveway and heard rustling behind the door, but no one answered.

“I would say code enforcement in this city is very difficult because we have an aging housing stock, so there’s a lot of places that need work,” said Patrick Beath, Rochester’s Corporation Counsel.

That’s certainly the case at Cathy’s house.  Public records show it was built in 1850 and had a steam heating system that no longer works.  Cathy says she has called code enforcement repeatedly, as has her sister, who lives in an apartment upstairs.

That apartment is also without heat and hot water, and she gets rent assistance from Monroe County’s Department of Social Services. That means your tax dollars are helping fund their substandard living conditions.

A Monroe County spokesperson says the Department of Social Services must rely on the city to make sure housing is up to code. The city placed an order to vacate on the home, so DSS has now sent the landlord a notice telling him to make repairs in 30 days or they’ll withhold rent and continue withholding it until repairs are made.

As for those repairs, Cathy told me a city inspector said he didn’t have a timetable for when repairs would be made. After our story aired, a contractor with the city called Cathy to say he’s going to her home to start repairs on Friday. The city will then bill the landlord for the extensive work.