Tenants: Problems have existed for years

Almost a quarter-century after Sonia Ruiz first moved into the apartment at 761 Treat Ave. with her mother at age 17, the apartment finally has heat.

“All these years that we've been here, we just got heat,” the 41-year-old mother and homemaker said.

Ruiz's mother, Rose Valdez, rents the apartment from Gloria Argueta. She is listed as the complainant on a Department of Building Inspection notice of violation, dated Aug. 5, 2005, which identifies Argueta as the building owner and outlines maintenance problems with the property, including faulty water lines and valves that obstruct hot water, a nonworking heater, damaged walls, ceilings and floor tiles and a common staircase labeled a “life hazard.”

The Department of Building Inspection is in the process of putting liens against owners of 62 rental properties in The City to try to enforce fines it has charged for lack of compliance with building codes.

Problems such as holes in the bathroom ceiling, peeling lead paint and a lack of heat and hot water have plagued the house for years, Ruiz said. At one time, the house was even infested with roaches.

“We have kids now. My ex-husband would not let my kids come over for a long time,” Sonia Ruiz said. Her 12-year-old son has asthma, which was aggravated by roach droppings in the air, she said. “My mother's afraid to speak up because she’s afraid she’s going to try to evict her.”

Argueta could not be reached for comment Monday, but another tenant of the building, who said he was her nephew, said the complaints were unwarranted.

“Every time we have something wrong here and we call my brother, he comes and fixes it right away. So I don’t have complaints with the owner of the building,” Julio Chicas said Monday. He said the complainants are trying to live for free by complaining to The City before Argueta can evict them for nonpayment of rent.

Ruiz said Argueta has done some repairs since the complaint was lodged, but that she refuses to hire professionals, instead attempting to do the work herself. “I don't know how many times [the ceiling] has been fixed and ends up with holes again,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said a major sticking point has been Argueta’s insistence that many repairs are the responsibility of the tenants.

“Our front door is really bad. Somebody tried to break in. They kicked the door in. It's been a while and she doesn't fix it. She says we're responsible for it.”

But Chico said the problem lies with the tenants’ lifestyle.

“They break doors, they break windows, they come home drunk in the middle of the night. They're crazy. These are not the kind of people who you want to live with,” he said.

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