Failed Inspection? Slumlords Find New Inspector
by Neena Satija | Dec 13, 2011 11:04 am
Virginia Garcia and her kids were home sweeping the floors and throwing out furniture. Not because they’re moving out—though they’d like to. But because mice and rats have gotten to nearly everything they own.
When we were putting up our Christmas tree, I saw a shirt moving on the floor, recalled Garcia (pictured), who lives on 102 Haven St. with her five children.
A closer look at the floor revealed that it was all chewed up—and mice were tugging it from one of the many holes in the wall through which they enter the house. (One of the holes, in the second-floor bathroom, is pictured above).
Part of Garcia’s rent is paid by the federal Section 8 program. The money goes directly to her landlords—poverty landlords Michael Steinbach and Janet Dawson.
Section 8 will pay those rents only if units pass at a regular housing code inspection.
How could the Fair Haven apartment pass such an inspection?
Rafael Ramos, an official with New Haven’s Livable Cities Initiative (LCI), has the same question. His agency inspects apartments for the Section 8 program if the rents are run through the city’s housing authority. LCI inspected Garcia’s apartment at 102 Haven. The apartment failed.
That inspection occurred in June. Ramos refused to allow a prospective family of Section 8 tenants to move there because of multiple housing code violations ranging from a hole in the wall and missing screens to cockroach and rodent infestation, a defective sink, and a leaking water main valve. (Click here to read the report.)
Later Garcia moved in, in August. Because her landlords, Steinbach’s and Dawson’s Diamond Properties, had found another route to get Section 8 approval—with different inspectors.
Garcia’s Section 8 voucher came from the state Department of Social Services. DSS contracts out its management of Section 8 to a Waterbury-based company called J D’Amelia and Associates.
A month after LCI failed the house, J D’Amelia and Associates inspectors approved it for Garcia and her family to move in. The inspectors didn’t make a single comment about the house in their passing report.
Ramos was in the neighborhood recently. Curious to see whether anyone else had moved in, he paid a visit. He was outraged.
It’s a hack job,” he said of the minimal repairs Diamond had made to the house since he failed it in June. “I refused to pass this house.” He found all the problems he’d cited it for in the past—a lack of carbon monoxide detectors, free-falling windows, a dummy vent, and rampant rodent infestation.
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