For the first time since the city began to stringently enforce code violations, a landlord is heading to jail.
Edward Kahn will report to jail Monday for a seven-day sentence. He must also pay $50,000 in fines for renting apartments at 33 Swan St. with leaking pipes, holes in the ceilings and walls, and broken windows.
Originally, his sentence was an $85,000 fine and no jail time. But he didn’t pay, so City Court Judge Mark Blanchfield sentenced him to a week in jail with a reduced fine.
Kahn said Tuesday he will turn himself in, but he’s not happy with the decision.
“I think it’s illegal,” he said. “It is what it is. I’ll do seven days. I’m 73 years old. This last year and a half, having something hanging over your head — you’re going to jail, you’re going to jail — if I was 30 or 40 I could probably have taken it a little bit easier.”
He said he’ll be relieved when it’s over.
“It could have been a lot worse. They were talking six months in jail,” he said.
Deputy Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico said he hoped the jail sentence would send a message to other landlords who do not fix their properties.
“We’re serious about rental property,” he said. “We want to work with you. But if you’re going to thumb your nose at us and not follow the rules, we will use everything in our arsenal.”
A former tenant reported the building conditions to the city. When code enforcers inspected, they confirmed the reports and also found no carbon monoxide detectors and no rental certificates. Landlords are required to get an inspection before they rent each unit.
The case was unusual because Kahn claimed in court that he never owned or operated the deteriorating apartment building.
“The funny part is I don’t own the building. They accused me of being the operator,” Kahn said Tuesday. “A friend of mine had the building. I was working with him on the building.”
But he bought the building in 2012 and filed the deed. Falotico said the purchase could have been an attempt to mask the true ownership of the building.
Three people, including Kahn, passed ownership back and forth, Falotico said.
Kahn said he was a victim of filing: He claimed he owned the building for just 20 minutes.
“I couldn’t get a mortgage on the building,” he said. “I’ve had some foreclosures.”
So, he said, he transferred it within minutes to another friend, who did not file her deed for months.
In the middle of his court trial, he produced the deed. But the trial went on anyway.
City officials produced evidence that he was the one renting apartments, communicating with code inspectors and otherwise involved in running the building. As the operator of the rental operation, he was still responsible for following city laws, Falotico said.
Kahn represented himself in court, even after several adjournments in which Blanchfield urged him to find a lawyer. Kahn said attorneys wanted $7,000 to $20,000, which he didn’t want to pay.
With delays for his research and the requests that he find an attorney, the case dragged on for more than a year.
“Maybe people expect if they drag these cases out we’ll give them an offer,” Falotico said, adding that they would be wrong to think that.
“At the end of the day, you will be held responsible.”