The owner of an apartment complex in the North End of Hartford has twice been called into court to answer for housing violations, but the New York-based landlord has dodged both appearances. The latest was Tuesday.
Residents of Barbour Gardens like Ernest McKenzie, who’s lived there for nearly 20 years, have gone to superior court twice to confront the building’s owner, Martin Rothman, over poor living conditions in the four-building complex.
But Rothman, one of the owners of ADAR Hartford Realty LLC, continues to be a no-show.
“I hope he shows up the third time, it’s coming around,” McKenzie said standing outside the courthouse. “I keep my fingers crossed.”
Carl Porto, Rothman’s Connecticut-based attorney, said his client will not make an appearance on the basis that he lives in New York and the court lacks the right jurisdiction over the matter.
But Housing Court Judge Rupal Shah said she will now consider issuing a bench warrant for Rothman’s arrest.
AJ Johnson, a pastor in the North End who has been helping residents through their housing issues, said there is a small victory in the court pushing for the bench warrant, “although it may be ineffective being that the landlord is out of town.”
Rothman faces charges for violating fire safety code in the building complex by not providing adequate fire alarm systems. Two of the buildings now have systems, but the other two buildings have stationed guards that serve as a fire watch.
The charges come shortly after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development pulled its $750,000-a-year Section 8 housing contract with the Barbour Gardens owner after inspectors found that the buildings had “major threats to health and safety.” Section 8 helps low-income residents pay their rent.
HUD is now in the processes of relocating eligible tenants to safer housing.
Porto said his client hopes to sell the apartment complex to a buyer who will continue to make renovations and improvements. The buildings are currently under contract for sale, he said.
But Johnson said that may not solve the real problem.
“There are no penalties for people who are not connected in this community, for people who are not integrated in this community, for people who don’t invest or have children in this community to do such horrendous things and not be held accountable because they don’t live here,” he said.
Another court date has been set for early June.