NEWSTEAD, N.Y. (WIVB) - Residents of a Newstead mobile home park have settled their grievances with the landlord after withholding their rent for a year.
Mary McGuire served her country abroad for more than 20 years, and when living conditions at the Quarry Hill Estates Mobile Home Park started to threatened her health and safety, she helped organize residents.
"We began to have septic problems, we had lighting problems," McGuire said.
And then they went on strike, holding back their rent and putting it in an escrow account. The Illinois-based owners, Lakeshore NY, LLC, threatened to kick the strikers out.
McGuire said, "When Lakeshore was going to give us eviction notices, my telephone rang off the hook - people were scared. I'm the vice president, and people were scared."
The rent strike lasted a year, ending in a settlement, and half of the back rent has been paid back.
Rent strike attorney Robert Friedman said, "And if they don't abide by this timetable, not only will they not receive their escrowed amount, but they will be penalized on a daily basis."
Some other tenants at Dorwood Mobile Home Park in Ransomville.facing unhealthy conditions are also trying to organize, but could be facing eviction themselves.
Stephen Farrell said, "They all have a story how they've been lied to, taken advantage of. They all have a story of how they pay the rent on time, and then they get interest charges and they don't know where it comes from."
While the Farrells and the residents at Quarry Hill Estates are mobile home park tenants, attorney Robert Friedman told News 4 the same principal applies to tenants of apartments. They have a right to safe, sanitary, secure housing. Without those guarantees, tenants have a right to withhold their rent.
Friedman said, "Before withholding your rent, you do have to give the landlord a written notice of what the problems are, and give them an opportunity to cure those violations."
Friedman also cautions tenants thinking about withholding rent. If you hold back your rent, but you don't do it as proscribed by law - even if it is justified - the landlord can have you evicted for non-payment of rent.
The New Jersey-based owner of Dorwood Park in Ransomville denied the Farrells' charges, saying they are in the process of evicting them.
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