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Slumlords Stiff Banks—& Rake In Sec. 8 Bucks

by Neena Satija | Nov 2, 2011 12:08 pm

(48) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Housing, Dwight, Fair Haven, Newhallville, The Hill

Neena Satija Photo Poverty landlords Janet Dawson and Michael Steinbach found a way to make money in the recession—stop paying the bank, let properties deteriorate, but continue collecting tens of thousands of dollars a month in checks from New Haven’s housing authority.

The Housing Authority of New Haven (HANH) is sending Section 8 federal rent subsidy checks to Dawson’s and Steinbach’s various corporate entities for at least 73 rental apartments, according to HANH. That amounted to nearly $80,000 paid out by HANH to the two for the month of October alone.

Meanwhile, lenders are foreclosing on their homes across town. And even though Dawson and Steinbach stopped paying their mortgages on the properties, that hasn’t stopped New Haven’s housing authority from continuing to send them rent checks.

Tenants continue to live in some of the buildings being foreclosed on. They pay their portions of rent to the landlords, too.

And another arm of government, City Hall’s Livable City Initiative (LCI), was chasing after Dawson and Steinbach to make sure their buildings were safe.

Call it one of the more curious side stories of New Haven’s foreclosure crisis—how problem landlords can get mortgages to fix up houses that remain blighted, stiff their lenders, yet continue to rake in government cash.

That’s the situation, for instance, at five properties which the Independent visited and examined court and city records about: on Orchard Street in Dwight, Stevens and Redfield Streets in the Hill, Dover Street in Fair Haven, and West Hazel Street in Newhallville.

The slumlord team emerged in the mid-1990s buying up multifamily houses in New Haven for next to nothing and renting them, in dilapidated conditions, to whoever would live there. They own hundreds of properties.

Dawson and Steinbach used to operate under the corporate umbrella of now-defunct Apple Management LLC, which painted most of its houses a bright red. The color is now peeling off many of those properties as they’ve transferred title to new corporate entities.

“They’re literally painting the town red with blight,” says Rafael Ramos, head of code enforcement for LCI. (Click here to read an earlier New Haven Advocate story about Apple’s practices.)

In some cases, Dawson and Steinbach took out mortgages on the houses for ten or more times their purchase price, and never paid a dime of the loan. When banks issued foreclosure summonses, they stalled the lawsuits for as long as three years and continued to collect rent from unsuspecting tenants the whole time.

That’s what happened in the case of five houses whose files were examined by the Independent, except that the government was paying most of the rent under the federal Section 8 program.

Most of the lawsuits are still pending. Landlords have the right to collect until the lender takes over the properties.

Housing authority Executive Director Karen DuBois-Walton was asked why her agency is keeping the landlords in business.

“I have a concern about the quality of the house, not the foreclosure status,” said DuBois-Walton (who moonlights as Mayor John DeStefano’s reelection campaign treasurer). “All we would be involved in is making sure that the house is passing code. I just need to know that it’s safe and decent housing.”

Records show every single one of these five houses has failed multiple Section 8 health and safety inspections.

“if you’re a landlord, you are obligated to provide safe, decent housing for your tenants and that’s what Section 8 is supposed to confirm,” said Carla Weil, executive director of the Greater New Haven Community Loan Fund. “This is probably less-monitored now than it has been in the past [because of shrinking city coffers].”

“When people use real estate as their means of making a living, they have a responsibility to do it in a manner that’s responsible to their tenants and that’s not always the case,” Weil said. “If you’re making money, we understand that’s part of the goal. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of your tenants.”

Reached at her office at 238 Butler St. (pictured) Monday afternoon, Dawson refused to comment on her business practices or be photographed.

“You guys always write bad stuff about us,” she said. “Just write whatever you want.”

A petite woman with long, blond hair and tanned skin (Dawson and Steinbach used to live in New Haven; they now live in Fort Lauderdale, FL), Dawson instructed her three-person office staff at Butler Street not to speak to reporters.

An album with a red velvet cover sits on the table in the lobby of her office with pictures of various properties. Several of them have foreclosure lawsuits pending against them. The property pictured in the album, 50-52 Blake St., has Section 8 tenants and has had a foreclosure lawsuit pending on it since 2009.

Asked whether those properties were being advertised for immediate rental, Dawson responded by taking away the album.

Here’s how she and Steinbach operated on five of the Section 8 properties on which lenders are foreclosing:

450-452 Orchard

Janet Dawson’s name first shows up in land records for this property in September of 1995, when she acquired it from People’s Bank for $8,000. Over the next several years she took out a series of mortgages on the property increasing in value from $48,100 to nearly $180,000.

You wouldn’t know that from looking at the house.

For most of the time Dawson has owned the house, tenant Jennifer (who declined to give her last name in an interview) said, she was living there with several kids. How the property could have increased so much in value is anybody’s guess, she said. She has lived with rodents, roaches, exposed pipes, and pulled-out walls, none of which were ever fixed.

According to an appraisal document from 2010 that was included in court foreclosure filings, an “external inspection” of the property found the house to be worth $83,000.

“We’ve been trying to move out of this house for years,” said Jennifer. But finding another four-bedroom apartment in the city isn’t easy.

She declined to let a reporter take any pictures of the infractions, but yearly inspection reports required by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Section 8 properties cite rotted sink bottoms, broken glass, holes in walls and ceilings, and entire floors in need of replacement. In 2009, the city’s health department sent a notice to Dawson for toxic levels of lead in more than 20 places throughout the house.

In May of 2010 Wells Fargo Bank sued Dawson, claiming she owed $143,000 and hadn’t paid. More than a year of legal wrangling later, tenants were still living there. HANH was still paying Dawson $1,254 a month in rent.

In July the government refused to pay any more rent, because the property had failed three health inspections in the span of several weeks and Dawson didn’t respond to any of LCI’s demands to fix the problems.

Now Jennifer and her family have to move out or they’ll lose their Section 8 voucher. It’s their responsibility to find a new place.

“In spite of all this foreclosure, the rental market is still quite tight,” said the Loan Fund’s Carla Weil. “You can tell people to just get up and move, but it’s not always that easy.”

How did Dawson manage to collect rent on a property in foreclosure for over a year, on the government’s tab?

In part by dragging out the foreclosure process.

It took months for the bank to get a formal response from Dawson (who has a listed address in Connecticut while living in Fort Lauderdale) on the Orchard Street property foreclosure, according to the court file. Wells Fargo Bank tried to force a default. Dawson’s attorney, William Carter, finally replied in September, about five months after the lawsuit was filed.

“A large volume of pleadings were due to the court over the course of two weeks when the office was short-staffed due to transitions,” Carter’s statement read, explaining why he hadn’t answered earlier.

Carter, who is based in East Berlin, Connecticut, did not respond to several phone messages seeking comment.

On the same day he filed his reply, Carter filed a formal answer to the foreclosure suit, listing two “special defenses”: First, that the bank never gave Dawson a copy of the foreclosure notice. Second, that “the Defendant is a victim of an unprecedented and historic, economic predicament,” having received no public assistance compared to the bank’s $25 billion federal bailout.

Those were among the last documents filed in the suit, which is still pending. Others have been adjudicated, but not without even more complex legal wrangling.

176 Dover

First County Bank started its lawsuit against Dawson for failure to pay $187,600 toward the mortgage she took out on this house in October of 2009. But it was only two weeks ago that the house was taken over and tenants living on the first floor, whose $1,180 per month rent was being paid largely by HANH, actually moved out.

Court records show tactics indicating Dawson tried to stall the suit, including filing for bankruptcy twice. Attorney Carter also asked for 60-day time extensions, claiming he needed more time to meet with Dawson because she lives out of state and because First County Bank had six foreclosure lawsuits against her which “emanate from complex transactions.”

In July of this year, the plaintiffs suddenly changed: First County Bank assigned the mortgage Dawson owed to a newly created company, Elite Property Investments LLC. It was that company that finally foreclosed on 176 Dover on Oct. 19, 2011.

The tenants living on the first floor knew they needed to move out this time around. The tenants on the second floor didn’t; their rent is also being paid by the government in a Section 8 subsidy program administered by a contractor, J D’Amelia & Associates.

That tenant, who declined to give her name, said she wasn’t informed of any foreclosure lawsuit.

Two years ago, she said, “I had heard through the channels that this house was in foreclosure.” So she called Dawson’s local office and asked if it was true.

“They said, ‘Oh no no no,’” she recalled. “They told me to keep paying my rent. They kept telling me they were going to evict me [if she didn’t pay].”

Section 8 tenants pay a portion of their rent; the government subsidizes the rest.

So the tenant kept paying. A few months ago, a lawyer suggested she look at the actual land records, which showed the house indeed was in foreclosure. So she called the office once again.

“I told them, I want my money back,” she said. “That’s when they got quiet.”

Amy Eppler-Epstein, a lawyer with New Haven legal aid, said she’d rather see Dawson try to keep the properties than let the banks foreclose on them. And Dawson wouldn’t have much chance at keeping them if she weren’t getting any rental income from the properties. Eppler-Epstein said.

“I think the foreclosure crisis is a real one for lots of landlords. And having them wholesale lose 80 properties to banks for foreclosure is much more of a nightmare than having them fighting them and trying to keep them,” she said. “Having properties owned by a landlord, whether a good one or a mediocre one, can often be better than being owned by the bank.”

No tenants interviewed described Dawson or her affiliates as even “mediocre.” The tenant at 176 Dover also dealt with dilapidated conditions that were just patched over in order to barely pass Section 8 health inspections, she claimed.

176 Dover wasn’t due for an inspection this year, since a new federal rule allows inspectors to skip a house if it passed its last two inspections. But when the LCI’s Rafael Ramos found out the house was in foreclosure, he decided to pay a surprise visit this month.

“We’re going to make this landlord fix this,” he said to the tenant as he looked around the apartment. His biggest concern: a hole in the basement chimney “big enough to put my head in it.” If anyone tried to turn on the oil, the entire basement would fill up with smoke.

“The fire department’s going to be here,” said Ramos. “I need that taken care of today.”

The third floor of the building has been empty for a while. In February of 2010—while the foreclosure lawsuit was still going—Dawson sued those tenants for not paying their rent, and won.

42 Stevens

Janet Dawson and Michael Steinbach won a suit against the tenants at this property for not paying their rent in 2008. About a year later, Steinbach was sued for failing to pay the mortgage. It took two years for the court to issue a $180,000 judgment, plus a $345 appraisal fee and $1,200 in legal fees. In October the property was foreclosed on by Elite Property Investments, LLC, with legal delaying tactics identical to those in the suit for 176 Dover St.

During that time Steinbach received $1,249 per month for rent from HANH. He made the bare minimum of fixes after inspectors failed the house multiple times for exposed wires and floors in danger of collapse.

An appraisal report included in the court filings from June 2011 value the house at $60,000, noting “the dwelling’s roof appears to be at the end of its life condition on the main portion of the house.”

The same month, inspectors failed the house three times in four weeks. HANH stopped paying Steinbach rent in September and tenants moved out about two weeks ago.

Around the time the foreclosure lawsuit was filed, Michael Steinbach quit-claimed the property to Apple Holdings LLC, meaning he transferred rights to it for a dollar. That’s a typical move for landlords dealing with properties in foreclosure.

Steinbach and Dawson quit claim their properties back and forth among dozens of limited liability corporations that they have created, with names such as Mad Max LLC, Pretty Pee LLC, EZ Mortgage LLC, Boo Betty LLC and Misty Girl LLC.

Some of those LLCs are intermediaries in an elaborate series of quit-claims. The only transactions on record for Apple Holdings, LLC, for instance, are nine quit-claims that occurred on 10/9/2009 (176 Dover and 42 Stevens are two of the properties the company quit-claimed on that date).

“When you start to see these very complicated transactions, it does make you wonder,” said Weil. “There’s nothing about these transactions that’s going to benefit the tenants.”

13 Redfield

In 1997, Dawson took out a $35,400 mortgage on this house. Two mortgages later she was able to borrow $120,000, in 2007. According to land records, the assessed value of the house in 2010 was $59,290 plus $19,530 for the land it sits on.

Section 8 tenants moved in on March 1, 2009. Nine months later, Deutsche Bank filed the first of three foreclosure lawsuits against Dawson for the house, for $120,000. The judgment is still pending, with records indicating that the foreclosure mediation time period has expired.

Last year, inspections failed the house for floors in danger of collapse. In April 2010, the ceiling fell in the bedroom of a young girl living there and the floor in the bathroom was sinking, according to inspectors.

Meanwhile, the housing authority is paying $696/month rent to a company called Diamond Properties Management, LLC. That’s yet another entity Dawson created.

266-268 West Hazel

The housing authority pays Diamond Properties Management $1,180/month for tenants who live on the first floor of this house. Michael Steinbach quit-claimed it from a man named Brett MacGray in 1998 for a dollar.

By 2005 Steinbach had a mortgage out on the property for $196,000. He was sued in November of 2009 for failure to pay. The lawsuit is still pending.

The tenants who live on the second floor are also Section 8 tenants, through J D’Amelia and Associates. Nicole Dennis, Dennis’s boyfriend, and their six kids have been trying to move out for years, but are having trouble finding another four-bedroom apartment, they said.

The kids in the family don’t walk to the bathroom; they run. That’s because the floor outside the bathroom slopes so sharply downward that smaller people can’t help but pick up speed when they approach.

“In my opinion they should just tear the whole thing down,” Dennis said. She has holes in her walls from rats that chewed through and vents that Diamond’s maintenance staff apparently removed and never replaced.

A year ago, she recalled, she was put up in a hotel on the government’s tab after she tried to turn on the heat and nothing happened.

“They’d taken away the furnace and never told me,” Dennis said. “I’d gone without a furnace the whole summer.”

So far, the house has failed two health inspections in the past month. If it fails another one, tenants may be forced to move out.

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Comments

posted by: GMG on November 2, 2011  12:10pm

What’s a “slumord”? Some kind of outer space creature?

[Editor: It’s a genus related to “landord,” referenced in recent campaign flyer. ... Thanks for catching that embarrassing typo.]

posted by: GMG on November 2, 2011  12:30pm

No problem…thank you for fixing it so quickly, and having a good attitude about it!

posted by: Jay on November 2, 2011  12:30pm

This is the best investigative journalism I’ve ever seen out of The Independent.  It blows out the Register.

posted by: AB on November 2, 2011  12:38pm

This is terrible on so many levels.  What is especially troubling is that children are living in these conditions especially when there are “toxic levels of lead in more than 20 places throughout the house”.  I’m guessing all the properties are like that. 

It’s a shame that bureaucracy has allowed this to go on for so long.  Never mind waiting for the banks to foreclose, Section 8 money shouldn’t be used to put people in housing like this.

posted by: evelyn on November 2, 2011  12:55pm

I’m interested to know if these properties were being inspected and passed by housing authority officials? Makes you wonder what kind of standards are set for the landlords that accept these housing subsidie?

posted by: Guest on November 2, 2011  1:10pm

All section 8 rentals should be inspected yearly (or at least at each tenant change) by HANH and /or LCI.This is a citywide problem that the Mayor needs to enforce! Yes…even in Westville.

PRESS RELEASE-
LCI KICKS-OFF SECOND PHASE OF RESIDENTIAL RENTAL LICENSE PROGRAM
NEW HAVEN—New Haven’s Livable City Initiative (LCI) announced that it will begin Phase II of the Residential Rental License Program, which requires landlords to obtain a license from the City in order to rent their property for occupancy.
“This is an important program that helps us ensure that New Haven residents are living in safe and humane environments,” said Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. “We are encouraged by the results of the first three years of this program and ask landlords who haven’t stepped-up yet to contact LCI and participate in this life-saving program.”
Launched in 2006, the Residential Rental License Program ordinance was created to protect the health, safety and welfare of City residents while preserving and improving the quality of existing rental properties. This license is required when one or more dwelling units are rented in a two or more unit residential structure. Owner-occupied units, single family homes, units owned by the Housing Authority of New Haven (HANH), hotel, motels, condominiums and temporary homes do not need a residential rental license.
In order to obtain a mandatory license, a landlord must schedule an inspection with LCI to ensure that a property meets minimum housing requirements. If a property fails to meet these standards, an owner must make the necessary repairs within 30 days in order to procure a license. For violations that present immediate hazards, less time is given for repairs to be completed. After the allotted time for repairs has expired, inspectors return to homes to ensure that all work has been done. When a unit fails a second inspection, a new timeline is given to the landlord at which time the inspector will return to re-evaluate the unit. Property owners are required to purchase these licenses ranging in cost from $75 for 2-3 unit multi-family homes to $350 for buildings with 20 or more units.
This program is designed to protect the character and stability of residential areas, educate the public about basic housing code standards as they related to health and life safety issues, prevent overcrowding and improve property values throughout New Haven.
“Through this program we’ve uncovered dangerous housing code violations and been able to step in to make sure that these conditions are corrected. In one case, this program helped us save the lives of a woman and her child who were being exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Rafael Ramos, Deputy Director, LCI. “This program is serious and it makes a difference; we just need all landlords to do the right thing by completing the registration and inspection process.”
Tenants who are living in rental units that have not been inspected and licensed are encouraged to contact their landlords. Owners of rental properties who have not yet obtained a license should contact LCI and schedule an inspection immediately. If an owner or renter is unsure if their dwelling is licensed or if a license is required, they are encouraged to contact LCI at 203-946-7090. For more information on the Residential Rental License Program, please visit http://www.cityofnewhaven.com, select Livable City Initiative from the drop-down menu and click on Residential License Program in the left sidebar.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on November 2, 2011  1:21pm

Excellent article, thanks for writing it.

posted by: The99pct. on November 2, 2011  1:24pm

What an inspirational story.

Dawson and Steinbach are part of the 99%.  We are they.  They are us. And we, the 99%, have finally figured out how to take it to the banks! 

Banks’days of corporate greed are over.  We the people will buy properties, collect government rental income and refuse to pay the corrupt, blood-sucking banks.  It’s our money.  So if they refuse to redistribute it, we will!

posted by: JFH on November 2, 2011  1:47pm

Thanks for this sort of report. It’s got to be hard work. But this kind of journalism could make ultimately make such a difference in our city!

posted by: Anstress Farwell on November 2, 2011  1:59pm

The house shown in the photo on the company’s wall is on Batter Terrace next to the Margaret Mack Houses. It was built in 1858 by Edward Malley, an Irish immigrant who made good as the founder of the Malley’s department store. It is now owned by Pike International, according to the signs out front. Hopefully the new owners will take better care of it. A photo in Elizabeth Mills Brown’s “New Haven: A Guide to Architecture and Urban Design” shows the building with its original windows and color scheme intact. To add insult to injury - the original windows were replaced with much smaller ones, in a process that can only be described as a hack job. Who done it? I don’t know. It’s a great building that could help stabilize a lovely street if rehabilitated with some knowledge and sensitivity.

posted by: Morris Cove Mom on November 2, 2011  2:01pm

I’m thinking that most of this could have been avoided in two simple ways.  A) The banks lending money could have done their due diligence by inspecting the properties thoroughly and B)The HANH could be staffed properly, and thus be able to inspect and pursue these deplorable properties.

A) is easy to remedy.  But with banks getting bailouts and writing off debts, why bother?  If no one is asking them to be accountable, then why should they try?

B) is harder.  I’ve worked with the HANH folks.  Some are tireless and martyrs for the cause of providing affordable housing the families, especially children.  But without the checks and balances necessary, there is so much that has fallen through the cracks.  These $80,000, and probably much more, should have never been issues.  When the repairs required are never made because there is no financial consequence, the landlord keeps on keeping on, and laughs all the way to the bank.

Shame on everyone at these banks, home inspection services, and the landlords named.  Not everyone is lucky enough to own the home they live in.  But everyone should have a safe place to live.

posted by: NOHOPAT on November 2, 2011  2:15pm

And how much have they give the mayor this is public record

posted by: Noteworthy on November 2, 2011  2:19pm

All these transactions, quit claim deeds and fast sales - sounds like financial planning, DeStefano style. No wonder DuBois-Walton didn’t see a problem.

Frankly, her poor excuse for oversight of this mess is weak. The Housing Authority’s main responsibility is to provide safe and decent housing for people either through their own projects or through housing owned by others. If you have a unit that fails to pass inspection, and it has not been cured in 30 days, you are to end the subsidy and the tenant will have to move. That DuBois-Walton didn’t see fit to do that is just another fine example of poor management and oversight.

In reality, once you have notice that there is a foreclosure suit pending, it is not because the landlord missed one payment - the landlord has not been paying for a long time. If they aren’t paying the mortgage, chances are they’re not paying for maintenance either. After all these years, where’s the common sense, the systems to check on these things and frankly, the accountability for not doing so? Heads should roll.

posted by: westville man on November 2, 2011  2:23pm

Not sure if the reporter caught the new company “SunEscape, LLC”  which is buying properties in NH at an alrming rate. The member is has a last name of “dawson” and lives in Florida. Coincidence? 

BTW, when the tenants get hurt falling through stairs, etc in these apartments, they’ll find the properties are uninsured as well.

posted by: realitybites on November 2, 2011  2:49pm

I think they should hire me as a ghost writer and develop a get-rich quick scheme and sell it for $199 apiece and make millions. Or maybe that’s where they learned all this.

posted by: familiarwiththislandlord on November 2, 2011  3:10pm

@GMG a slumlord is someone who doesn’t take care of their property,someone who like this landlord doesn’t live in Connecticut AT ALL but takes advantage of the poor, like she’s doing.
I’m very familiar with this company what eveer name their using, diamond properties, apple management, whatever name their using now a days. Thank GOD i didn’t take the apartment out in victory drive(westville), HOLE IN THE WALL, CARPET LOOKED LIKE PIGS WALKED ON IT, yard disgusting, I had to make numerous phone calls and had an argument with Ms. Dawson just to get my deposit back! This company really needs some type of charges brought up against them before someone hurts them!

posted by: Yellow Dog on November 2, 2011  3:10pm

I am an area landlord that treats their properties, tenants, neighbors and lenders right. I am offended by the actions of these landlords.

I thank NH Independent for doing such a great job with this story. It is amazing to me that these landlords can treat their tenants in such a deplorable fashion.

posted by: familiarwithlandlord on November 2, 2011  3:19pm

@Jay…I agree way better than new haven register

posted by: curious on November 2, 2011  3:31pm

Not that we will ever know, but I’m curious how much these landlords have paid in legal fees. All the contortions to do anything BUT fulfill their responsibility to their tenants and HANH are very costly even to them—above and beyond the legal fees are the costs of creating phantasmagoric zombie LLCs, the costs of deferred maintenance, and possibility of fines and jail time. ...

posted by: Hmmm... on November 2, 2011  3:51pm

“Reached at her office at 238 Butler St. (pictured) Monday afternoon, Dawson refused to comment on her business practices or be photographed.”...does no photograph mean no mug shot on file? Just wondering if these two have ever been arrested or charged with anything?

posted by: 53er on November 2, 2011  4:05pm

@the99 ... The slumlords are NOT part of YOUR group! They knew exactly what they were doing and have been doing it for YEAR!! They have been buying up houses that are falling apart for years and renting them to Sec 8 people. They get sited for not fixing things and then they let them foreclose so THEY are part of the problem!! They have changed LLC more then once and they keep buying and foreclosing! Did you not read that they keep racking in the money even though they DON’T pay their mortgage! You are right you are them, suck from the tit of the system!

posted by: ozzie on November 2, 2011  5:24pm

Sounds like a couple people should, (A) be arrested and (B) be fired !

posted by: nel on November 2, 2011  6:24pm

i’m not paranoid. but every time i make a written statement. it is erased before i can send it. any way hanh are just as much to blame
they been holding me hostage. they moved out quite a few tenants. almost all at once. why am i still being here.

posted by: Sven Martson on November 2, 2011  6:41pm

These nasty avaricious [people] also own or once owned 216 Dwight Street under the Apple Management Co.  This one family house was once the home of Dr. Fleming, the first black dentist in New Haven.  He built this once lovely house in 1920 for his Barbados born wife who wished to have a house in a style common to her homeland. It is a spacious stucco structure with generous chestnut wood interior details.  They’ve allowed this historic treasure to deteriorate to a blighted state from which it may never recover.

posted by: Ora on November 2, 2011  7:58pm

LCI needs to report this to the appropriate authorities and not just work from the end of housing code violations. And Karen Debois-Walton needs to do the same, not just concern herself with code. What is wrong with all of you? Get moving and stop allowing these slumlords to collect this type of rents while defaulting on the mortgage. I think the FBI and the attorney generals office would be very interested in this. Come on now deputies and Director Johnson get with it and stop this type of basic fraud.

posted by: lance on November 3, 2011  12:31am

The whole section 8 thing stiffs the taxpayers and should be abolished completely.

posted by: rob on November 3, 2011  7:29am

“Landlords have the right to collect until the lender takes over the properties.”

This is the problem the backbone of their scheme is perfectly legal. Add to that lax lending standards which allow false inflation of property values (the banks can stick those loans into crappy tranches of CDOs and inevitably stick it back to the taxpayer by selling it to Fannie Mae) and we’re stuck with blighted property values and back door bailouts of the banks. DOUBLE SCREWED . This is exactly the kind of case that Congressperson Delauro should personally launch into because it can only be solved federally.

posted by: Local Landlord on November 3, 2011  8:48am

Maybe Amy Eppler-Epstein should read this article, She would see that Dawson should NOT keep the buildings, they should go to the bank and then some RESPONSIBLE law abiding landlords should own them. That would be best of all!

—————————————————————————
Amy Eppler-Epstein, a lawyer with New Haven legal aid, said she’d rather see Dawson try to keep the properties than let the banks foreclose on them. And Dawson wouldn’t have much chance at keeping them if she weren’t getting any rental income from the properties. Eppler-Epstein said.

“I think the foreclosure crisis is a real one for lots of landlords. And having them wholesale lose 80 properties to banks for foreclosure is much more of a nightmare than having them fighting them and trying to keep them,” she said. “Having properties owned by a landlord, whether a good one or a mediocre one, can often be better than being owned by the bank.”

posted by: nhteaparty on November 3, 2011  8:50am

You know what would be a news story: find a landlord in NH that ISN’T a slumlord. 

So what. These guys found a way to screw the banks over, who cares?  That’s the banks’ problem.  From my discussions with some responsible landlords, I can see how section 8 might force some individuals to go the slumlord route with their constant nickle and diming.  Not to mention many of the tenants who have absolutely no respect for the properties they inhabit.

What’s stupid is that instead of just having a city run housing project we just hand out money to a bunch of white collar criminals as they wriggle their way through the legal system while their “investments” rot away.

Very good job investigating this issue, but there is far too much corruption for anything to ever come of it.  Even the HANH’s own words betray them; They’d rather have corrupt slumlords propping up dilapidated death traps than empty buildings.

posted by: westville man on November 3, 2011  9:05am

Actually, LL do NOT have the right to collect rents once they are in default. All mortgages and riders have a provision whereby, in the event of borrower default, the mortgage holder can immediately notify tenants to pay the holder directly as additional security. And they dont have to wait to get it through a court-ordered escrow.
Too many lenders are negligent in not using this provision.

posted by: familiarwiththislandlord on November 3, 2011  10:38am

@westville man, i’m pretty sure its the same person, ms dawson gets sued alot so their constantly changing the companies name…how i know this is because another realtor whom i ended up renting from(thank god) had previous experience with ms dawson’s company with having to help a tenant out through LCI.

posted by: NewHavenerToo on November 3, 2011  12:07pm

Don’t ever mention the phrase “common sense” when it comes to HANH management.  There is no nexus between the two.

posted by: taxpayer on November 3, 2011  12:37pm

Has anyone checked to see what kind of campaign contributions these slumlords have been making? HANH’s director is the mayor’s campaign manager as well and that agency spreads around a lot of tax money. Just asking…This is New Haven, after all.

posted by: charles in charge on November 3, 2011  1:44pm

What a good job of reporting. You are to be commended for exposing the corruption involved in sect. 8 housing by slumlords and   incompetent managers of the program in New Haven. I live in Hartford and I have the feeling the same greed and incompetence is present in my hometown. It calls for an investigative reporter of your caliber to research it.

posted by: TOM on November 3, 2011  1:46pm

564-566 Howard ave is a six family in foreclosure. Please take a good look at this building, one tenant lives there own by apple something. manager is Bruce K.

posted by: Loren Costantini, Esq. on November 3, 2011  2:17pm

I am one of the attorneys who represented the woman that the ceiling fell on her.  We sued Apple Holdings, obtained a judgment and then Apple Holdings filed for bankruptcy thereby preventing collection of rightfully due monetary damages to my client.  This unethical and atrocious behavior in addition to that described in this article are examples of people abusing the system for self gain.

posted by: Paul on November 3, 2011  2:37pm

Thanks for actually practicing journalism at the New Haven Independent!

posted by: familiarwiththislandlord on November 3, 2011  3:05pm

@ Lance, your correct but to a certain degree, i believe section 8 should be for the working people that needs a little assistance, like myself(lol) i’ve been working for 14years at Yale and there’s a little struggle but i’m making it 37yrs old with a son in college, but also i know people on section 8 who abuse it keep getting pregnant so they can recieve more government money and pay next to nothing in rent!

posted by: Kenneth J. Krayesk on November 3, 2011  4:02pm

Great work, Paul!

posted by: Barry on November 4, 2011  8:47am

Another government program that is needs to be shut down. The government screws up everything it is involved in.And the “owners”  of these properties ARE slum landlords….

posted by: former hanh employee on November 4, 2011  12:40pm

Does HANH have a contract with LCI?  They pay LCI to inspect the units prior to the tenant moving in, and then on a every two year basis or at tenant request. 

Also HANH employees were trained about five years ago on how to use computer generated court records to look for foreclosures.

Does HANH actually review the inspection reports?

No one should be surprised that Karen is so busy-there’s a lot of campaigning to do

posted by: Lifer on November 6, 2011  10:33am

It seems that a Michael Steinbach and a Janet Dawson are both listed on Zabasearch at 314 Isle of Capri Drive in Fort Lauderdale.  This is a 1 million dollar waterfront crib.
http://www.zillow.com/homes/314-isle-of-capri-dr-fort-lauderdale-fl_rb/

posted by: landlord on November 7, 2011  5:53pm

As an area landlord that pays all of our bills, picks up late night phone-calls if necessary and answers for any problem that comes up, I also find the way that Steinbach and Dawson do business appalling. Great article NHI. Someone mentioned another LLC buying properties as they drop the ones in question and that is probable. Dubois-Walton has no jurisdiction over foreclosures that I’m aware of, but does have the power to stop payment to these landlords if Housing Quality Standards Violations are found. Let’s hope she finds lots of them in the current properties in question and any more that are bought by this set of gangsters.

posted by: Sparks on November 7, 2011  7:03pm

I’m sure there are two sides to the story. I’ve talked with Steinbach. He seemed like a nice guy trying to do his best. If you look at the pictures of their homes, a lot of work and money was spent on them. Despite what the story says, most didn’t simply have red paint slapped on them. Most shown have vinyl siding, expensive to install on large multi-family homes. They also have new windows. While some might not like vinyl replacement windows, they are almost a necessity for older homes where the original windows are coated with lead paint. Dawson and Steinbach have probably spend a fortune trying to de-lead these properties. As for the flipping, scamming the banks, maybe so…however the whole real estate market is precarious…

I’m cynical about some things, such as the picture showing the missing vent. There was dirt around it, filthy walls, things dropped into the vent hole, etc. I’m sure that was caused by the tenants who now look like innocent victims in the story.

Keep in mind that New Haven’s LCI does the inspections for most Section 8 units. It’s hypocritical for head of LCI inspections Rafael Ramos to seem to be outraged at the conditions when his agency, not the Housing Authority of New Haven, has supposedly inspected most of those apartments.

Sparks

posted by: christopher schaefer on November 7, 2011  8:27pm

For anyone who still reads the New Haven Register, specifically the Saturday real estate closings, this is their newest LLC reincarnation that’s in the listing nearly every Saturday.    http://www.ishcc.org/FL/Fort-Lauderdale/sun-escape-llc

posted by: ISH on November 8, 2011  1:57am

THIS TYPE OF CRAP DIDN’T JUST START!
IT’S BEEN GOING ON W/ THE HORRIBLE LANDLORDS NOT MAINTAINING PROPERTY THE WAY THEY SHOULD HAVE!...
HOW DO I KNOW IS I’M A SECT 8 RECIPIENT W/ A PREVIOUS SLUMLORD THAT DID THIS VERY SAME THING AS LCI PASSED HIS APARTMENTS W/ A COMMENT ON REPAIRS THAT WERE NOT CORRECTED AS SAID TIME LCI SAID THE REPAIRS WERE CORRECTED!
ALSO, LANDLORDS FORGING SECT.8 RECIPIENTS SIGNATURE ON SECT 8 PAPERS IN ORDER 2 RECIEVE MORE MONEY FOR RENT ON UNIT RESIDING AS WELL AS SECT 8 APPROVING OBSURD RENT INCREASES TO LANDLORD W/ OUT ACTULLY MAKING SURE THE SECT 8 RECIPIENT AGREES & OR IS KNOWLEDGABLE OF THIS INCREASE!
IT’S CRAZY HOW THE STATE OF CT GUIDELINES STATES A LANDLORD HAS 2 GIVE THE TENANT 30 DAYS WRITTEN NOTICE UPON INCREASE OF SAID APARTMENT BUT NHHA SECT 8 ONLY REQUIRES THE LANDLORD 2 GET THE SIGNATURE OF TENANT ON THE HUD FORN REQUEST FOR TENANCY APPROVAL {RFTA} WHICH IS ACTUALLY GIVEN TO THE SECT 8 RECIPIENT UPON INITITIALLY MOVING IN OF UNIT!
I HAVE FOUGHT W/ NHHA SECT8, LCI, SENT PROBLEM 2 ALDEMAN 4 HELP W/ RESOLUTION, CALLED HUD HTFD, HUD WASHINGTON DC SINCE 2009 ABOUT ALL THIS CRAP THAT HAS BEEN GOING ON & SWEPT UNDER THE RUG UNTIL SOME1 FINALLY UNCOVERED THESE PILES OF DIRT THAT WERE SWEPT UNDER THE RUG!
ABOUT TIME

posted by: ohan karagozian on November 15, 2011  1:16pm

I had an extensive time to read most of the article and some of the comments.  Once comment did draw my attention though.  Sparks commented that LCI approved the living conditions of all the Section 8 housing Units prior to them being rented.

So the question is whether the properties became dilapidated after they were rented out to Section 8 tenants or that they were not properly inspected prior to being rented out to Section 8 tenants?

Is the dilapidation pre-existing to rental, or was it created by the tenants after rental?

If the dilapidation is pre-existing, LCI should have never approved the units for rental, but if the dilapidation occurred afterwards because of tenant’s abuse then the tenants should be held responsible for damages.

Does anybody have any answers?

posted by: Smarty Pants on November 19, 2011  8:47pm

This could all have been prevented if the city was doing it’s job. They are looking for a scapegoat. Good fir Dawson at least De Stefano is nit the only one lining their pockets with my tax money.

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