KIYC: Tenants say they are being evicted by deceased property manager
NEWARK - Some tenants at a Newark apartment complex say they are being wrongfully evicted, and a Kane In Your Corner investigation finds they could have a case. The investigation finds Pavilion Apartments and its management company, Kettler Properties, sent out legal notices supposedly signed and dated by a former manager who had been dead for months.
Kyle Screen, the tenants association president at the Pavilion Apartments, says he has been arguing with property managers over the new lease agreement, which asks residents to take on new expenses, including buying their own $100,000 liability insurance policies and paying extermination costs if their apartments are treated for bed bugs. Since the apartments are rent controlled, Screen argues that it amounts to an illegal rent increase, but he says managers have refused to discuss the issue. Instead, Screen was hit with an eviction notice, citing his refusal to sign the new lease along with other alleged lease violations, which Screen denies. “I believe management is targeting me because I have been a very vocal voice for the residents,” he says.
But Kane In Your Corner found a much bigger issue with the eviction notices sent to Screen and hundreds of other tenants. The “landlord verification forms” are supposedly signed and dated by a former manager who died months before. Brian Freeman, a Jersey City attorney who specializes in housing law, says this is such a serious legal problem that any eviction bearing that signature “would have to be dismissed on its face immediately.”
The attorney for Kettler Management, Jenel Marraccini, says property managers sign hundreds of blank forms in advance so the law firm can fill in the information as needed. She admits the firm was still using old forms signed by the now-deceased manager, but argues that the mistake is unimportant because “someone at the management company reviews these notices.”
But Brian Freeman, a housing attorney from Jersey City and past president of the New Jersey Bar Association, calls that argument “totally false.” That’s because the verification forms state that the person signing them has personally read the information and vouches that it is accurate, under penalty of law. “To have someone who is deceased do it, quite frankly, is outrageous,” Freeman says.