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Landlord from Hell selling his buildings

When Daniel Hix moved into a one-bedroom Woodside apartment eight months ago, he did not know anything about his prospective landlord, Nicholas Haros.
However, Haros’ notoriety had long been cemented among housing advocates and residents of his estimated 2,000 apartments in Queens. As of the end of 2006, Haros owned 47 buildings in the borough, racked up nearly 7,000 violations on his Queens properties in 2005 and scored a spot on Housing Here and Now’s Ten Worst Landlords list that year.
But Hix did not find out any of this until a few months after he moved in with his wife Mary. The tiles in the bathroom cracked and the paint, which had been shellacked on the floor of his tub, began to peel. Four or five times in a one-month period the building on 51st Street near the corner of Roosevelt Boulevard lost heat and hot water, he said.
Then, came the floods - on Sunday, January 13.
Hix’s ceiling started to leak and dumped water into his bedroom for hours - from about 8 until 11 p.m. Hix placed pots, cups and virtually every container in his home underneath the drips until finally he decided to pierce the sagging ceiling and release the collected water.
“The ceiling has to be replaced. You can poke a hole through the ceiling with your finger,” the Lincoln Center stagehand said.
Hix called his landlord and left five messages on the day it happened, and he even ran into a man who collects garbage in his building that afternoon and reported the problem. However, he said he hadn’t heard back about what will be done to the leaky spot, where mold is starting to grow.
“I can’t believe that there is no super in the building,” Hix said, later adding, “What if a pipe explodes in your apartment?”
Added worry came when Hix learned during a meeting on Monday, January 21 with Catholic Migration Attorney Robert McCreanor that a real estate company - Apollo Real Estate Advisors & Vantage Properties LLC - has bought his building. McCreanor had come to Hix’s building in 2003, and after he sued Haros, the absentee landlord was forced to install a new front door. In addition, McCreanor has pursued individual suits with renters, but many apartments still need repairs, tenants said.
A spokesperson for Apollo declined to comment, but Vantage’s CEO Neil Rubler confirmed that the sale for Haros’ buildings throughout the city - including about 50 in Queens - went through for about $300 million.
“We fully hope and expect and that housing advocates will be thrilled with the results that unfold over, let’s be realistic, over the next 12 to 18 months,” Rubler said of planned improvements in the buildings. Rubler said that his company plans to invest “tens of millions of dollars” to spruce up the properties.
“When [Apollo and Vantage] buy a building in Queens, they actually put some money into the building, some real money,” McCreanor told about 40 building residents.
However, McCreanor warned that the company swiftly starts the process to evict residents and to raise rents.
“They move very quickly,” McCreanor said, citing a building on 40th Street and Queens Boulevard, where he has tallied that 25 percent of the residents had been evicted in a year and a half. “In that building, we are trying to stop the bleeding.”
But Rubler said that within Vantage’s other properties, the company only moved to evict tenants who were living there illegally and often opted not to evict residents even if it was within their right.
“Our obligation as a landlords is to ensure that the people residing in our buildings are rightfully there,” he said, adding, “[Evictions] they are brought though legal means because the tenant in the apartment wasn’t doing what the tenant was supposed to be doing.”
“All we can do is our jobs, maintain the buildings and provide the services,” Rubler said. “The good quid pro quo that we expect by our tenants is that they abide by the rules.”
But McCreanor and tenants remained skeptical.
Most importantly, McCreanor asked that residents document problems and repairs needed.
“Whoever owns this building two days from now will be responsible for fixing this,” he told residents.
In addition, McCreanor offered the legal services of Tenants Advocacy Project of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens Catholic Migration Office, which represents tenants free, should any issues arise.
In the past, Hix has called 3-1-1 to report elevator outages as well as other problems in the building - he and his wife live on the first floor but a number of seniors reside in the upper units.
“Who do you call? That’s the hard part,” he said.

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