Janice Mussington is on strike. The cracked walls of her Bronx apartment are covered with mold and mildew that agitate her son’s asthma. After months of asking her landlord to fix the problem, she says the conditions remain unchanged, and she refuses to pay the rent until they do.
This is just the latest installment in the attempts by Mussington and her neighbors to get their landlord, Charles Sutton, to make the needed repairs to their homes at 2205 Davidson Avenue in Mount Hope. Over the last nine years, they have been in and out of Housing Court with him as the property racked up code violations that now number 516. The city has classified 89 of those as extremely serious for peeling lead paint, missing smoke detectors and mold.
Luckily for the tenants, Sutton’s unpaid taxes and egregious violations may have finally caught up with him. Last week, the city Department of Finance put his tax lien up for sale. Since 1985, he has accumulated $436,812 in back taxes, according to city records. And the Department of Housing Preservation and Development has made moves to take him to court for what the agency calls a “comprehensive violations” case.
In this rare move reserved for only the worst housing code violators, the city will ask the judge to order Sutton to make all needed repairs. If he ignores the mandate, he will be held in contempt and face fines and possible jail time. This marks the third time HPD has taken him to court for this building. Calls to Sutton were not returned.
As for the tenants, they say they couldn’t be happier. “The landlord hasn’t done anything in five years,” said Audley Bachelor, a fifth-floor resident whose bathroom ceiling collapsed last July, leaving behind a gaping hole that he says took weeks to repair. “I could hear everything my upstairs neighbor was saying.”