I just moved into an apartment at 121 Seaman Ave., in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan.
The property is managed by the Dermot Company, which has been snatching up properties all around New York City and providing broker free rentals through sites like Rent-Direct.com, which is where I found my apartment.
The apartment seemed like a steal: A lot of space, a pretty nice building, a decent neighborhood (if far as hell from all civilization) and a reasonable rent. However, upon moving in to my new apartment, I made a few alarming discoveries: My kitchen is infested with cockroaches, I have only intermittent hot water, and there are no smoke detectors in my apartment.
Though, at my lease signing, Dermot assured me that they would be prompt in responding to any maintenance issues, I have found that they keep their maintenance line locked in “Do Not Disturb” mode 24/7 and do not return calls under any circumstances. It has been over a week since I have called to complain about these issues — all three of which are clear violations of NYC housing code — and I have yet to receive a call back.
Last night, I asked a neighbor about her experience with Dermot. She told me that the tenants in my building — those who have had the will to stay and fight — have been organizing against Dermot and that they’ve already called in the City Council for help. She says that she has personally filed a half-dozen complaints with 311 in the past year, that the hot water has been an issue for a long time, and that when she withheld rent, as was within her rights, Dermot wrecked her credit. She said that half the tenants have vacated in the last year, three on my floor alone, and that she’s moving out before her lease is up because she doesn’t want to deal with Dermot anymore.
A NY1 article published earlier this month (that I wish I’d read before signing my lease) says:
Tenants [of another property in Brooklyn] say they’re being forced out of their rent controlled and rent-stabilized homes by new landlords who are transforming them into luxury apartments. They claim they’re being harassed with all sorts of tactics, from frivolous lawsuits to challenges to their leases, to being denied basic repairs.
Jackson’s been living in a rent-stabilized apartment at 99 Lafayette for 16 years. She says her problems began when the building was bought by the Dermot Company in February. The same developer also owns 266 Washington, where many long-time residents shared similar stories.
I called my City Council representative to look into this matter. The conversation began like this:
“Hi. I just moved into the neighborhood and have found my new landlord to be somewhat negligent. It’s a management company called Dermot.”
“Do you live at 121 Seaman?” the councilman’s associate asked, instantly naming my address.
“Yeah, they’re a big problem,” she said, warning me that I should file a rent overcharge form in order to check whether they’re also ripping me off on the rent, which has been her experience. She also urged me to attend the upcoming tenant meeting in my building, which she will be present at.
I offer this as a cautionary tale to my fellow New Yorkers and those presently hunting for apartments in NYC: Stay the fuck away from Dermot. They are, to put it mildly, indifferent to the needs of their tenants; and to put it fairly, douchebags.
Act in solidarity with your fellow renters and help bring pressure to bear on Dermot. Blog, Digg, or otherwise share this article with as many New Yorkers as possible.
[Update] Thanks to Gothamist and Consumerist (which scored me a brief-but-gone mention on Gawker this morning), I actually got a call back from Dermot today… Let’s see if they actually follow through on my issues now.