QNS: Legal Aid sues landlord and city for Elmhurst tenants who have been without gas since January

The Legal Aid Society has filed a lawsuit in Queens Housing Court against a building’s landlord and the city on behalf of Elmhurst residents who have been without working gas since January.

Residents at 83-45 Broadway, a 195-unit building, have reportedly been unable to use gas in their apartments since early January 2018. On Aug. 23, the New York City-based nonprofit announced legal action against Regent Equities LLC, the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB), and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) on behalf of 45 residents living in the apartment.

According to Legal Aid, after the tenants’ gas went out in January, DOB records showed that the landlords attempted to perform gas work without a valid work permit. Upon inspecting the building, the DOB issued a Stop Work Order, which was rescinded in early February.

Since then, the tenants said that the landlords have not attempted to restore their gas, which resulted in them increasing their household expenses to purchase pre-made foods and resorting to unsafe cooking practices like the in-home use of portable propane burners.

“Landlords have a legal obligation to provide essential services, such as cooking gas, to their tenants. When landlords fail to do this, tenants and their families suffer immensely,” said Nelson Yeung, staff attorney with the Queens Civil Practice of The Legal Aid Society. “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.”

Legal Aid said they are seeking an order for the landlord to correct the conditions that violate the Housing Maintenance code “including the restoration of gas services.” Other violations listed in Legal Aid’s documents include vermin infestation, mold, cracked and peeling paint and water leaks. The organization is also pursuing a harassment claim due to Regent Equities “continuous failure” to restore gas over “an extended period of time” and also an order to prevent further “acts of harassment.”

There are currently over 20 recorded complaints made to the HPD and six open “Class C” violations in regards to the gas outage, which landlords have 24 hours to repair due to their “immediately hazardous” nature. Legal Aid said that HPD is conducting housing inspections for the 45 tenants involved in the case and they will create an updated list of the building’s violations.

Andrew Rudansky, a spokesperson for the DOB said that the agency was working with the landlord to remedy the lack of gas in the building.

“While it is the landlord’s responsibility to provide gas service to tenants, DOB works diligently to bring owners into compliance with gas-safety rules. A permit to correct extensive illegal gas work at this building was approved this week.”

A spokesperson from HPD said that they are not allowed to comment on ongoing litigation and Regent LLC could not be reached for comment at this time.