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Nightmare Tenants: Tales from the Eviction Moratorium

We always hear about the stories of oppressed tenants harassed by tyrant landlords, and granted, these are definitely more common. It’s important to bring those stories to the forefront of public awareness, as well – they are injustices the wealthy and powerful impose on the unempowered, with no regard for their humanity. But there’s another side to the equation, and sometimes in our quest for justice, we forget that fact. In some cases, as in the stories here, it’s nightmare tenants plaguing innocent landlords (yes, there is such a thing!). 

Unprecedented Situation 

Typically, the Nation doesn’t impose eviction moratoriums. But with the outbreak of COVID-19 (and all its subsequent variants) and the global pandemic, we have been witness to unprecedented times. Mandates and lockdowns crippled businesses everywhere, and we will likely be experiencing the fallout for many years to come. One of the unique situations that arose for Americans was the federally issued eviction moratorium. This essentially put a “hold” on a landlord’s right to lawfully evict tenants for non-payment of rent. It was meant as a way to avert a huge spike in homelessness, due to Americans being unable to work through no fault of their own. 

Of course, whenever the government imposes a generalized, emergency policy like this, there are bound to be some unforeseen problems. But keep in mind a couple of important facts; one, that this only put rent on hold – it did not negate the responsibility for paying it, eventually. And two, it did not include evictions for any other reason besides the nonpayment of rent. It gave people a pause – a temporary stay if you will. It also effectively tied the hands of many landlords, who make money they depend on by collecting rent. Big landlords notwithstanding, there were also what we call “mom and pop” landlords. These are typically individuals or couples who just have one or two properties they rent out. Sometimes, as in large or multi-family homes, people rent part of the home out. Many of these landlords have experienced nightmare tenant stories, especially – but even corporate landlords are not exempt, as we shall see…

The Ticking Time-Bomb 

Take Adonis Tan, a resident of 428 East 89th Street, a 20-unit building. This story is unique, involving corporate landlord Copperwood Real Estate, a fourth-generation firm, that owns the building. According to a lawsuit filed by Copperwood, Mr. Tan has a vendetta against the staff in the building and throws glass bottles and curses loudly at them. He threatens neighbors who walk by, saying, “I am going to kill you!” For no apparent reason, and screams violently, day and night. Tan destroys property with abandon, no conscience, and floods his own apartment by leaving the toilet running. But that’s not all!

He lights fires inside the unit, and once even left the gas on all night, putting his neighbors at risk. The Fire Department has had to come out numerous times and occasions and been forced to perform multiple evacuations of the building. The landlord filed a lawsuit to get this mentally depraved man out, under these extreme conditions – even during the active moratorium. In the lawsuit, the landlord calls Tan a “ticking time bomb.” This was on the Upper East Side – in the Yorkshire neighborhood of Manhattan. Can you imagine how horrified some of his wealthy neighbors were? All of this was filed less than 3 months after Tan moved in. It’s unclear what happened after the legal papers were filed, but the article quoted Copperwood as saying Tan was “so noxious even the moratorium won’t save him.” I certainly hope the Judge agrees.

Assault, Animal Abuse, and Anarchy 

And then there’s Dr. Gilbert is an OB/GYN, who moved from Arizona to Brooklyn in the spring of 2018 with her husband, Roderick Charles, and their two young children. The home, at 649 East 94th Street in the Flatbush neighborhood, had an upstairs unit that they could rent out. It would be the first time they would try being landlords instead of tenants. They had spent time renovating both units and rented the upstairs unit in January 2019 to a married couple named Trevor and Kim Evelyn. This was literally a fateful decision, as little did they know, these were the tenants from hell. The house is pictured below. 

The first-time landlords had problems from the start, some of the initial complaints were things like:

  • Tenants continually clogged toilets with baby wipes 
  • Tenants would leave their garbage in the entryway
  • Tenants argued loudly in the middle of the night, waking the landlords’ children 

At first, Dr. Gilbert was finishing up her contract in Arizona, while her husband and children attempted to deal with the troublesome tenants at their new address. But Gilbert would get calls in the middle of the night from Kim Evelyn, screaming and cursing at her because her husband Roderick had knocked on their door to confront them over noise or flooding – or both, now daily occurrences. The landlords agree not to renew their lease, and notify the tenants, with no response. Kim sets up a meeting she never shows up at, and the problem tenants avoid the landlords successfully. But then, in March 2019, COVID hit hard, and the eviction moratorium was enacted. Right away, the tenants seized the opportunity to stay without paying and took full advantage of the situation. That’s when things really heated up. Here are some of the next level of terrorization they endured:

  • Tenants blast loud music all night long 
  • Tenants pound on Dr. Gilbert’s bedroom window at 2 am, regularly – then when either her husband or she goes to confront them, no one will come to the door

One day, in August 2020, Dr. Gilbert was carrying a package up the stairs while Kim Evelyn watched from the second floor. Completely unprovoked, about halfway up, she sprays Gilbert in the face with a cleaning solution that burns her skin and eyes. In January 2021, Kim Evelyn moved her adult son into the apartment, Ravon Service, who ultimately brought in another man and several cages and dogs – even though they had a strict no-pets policy. Ravon Service, a rapper, leaves dogs for long periods of time, never takes them out and no one cares for them, and the dogs get into terrible fights. Now, these things were happening: 

  • Dog urine began seeping through the walls into Dr. Gilbert’s children’s bedroom, ceilings begin sagging, Fire Department comes multiple times
  • Dr. Gilbert calls the ASPCA
  • Tenants start a flood and leave the apartment (again!), and Gilbert gets emergency permission to enter (FINALLY!)

That’s when she finds the dogs. Eventually, the police obtain a search warrant and execute it, arresting the tenants and son and friend, and the ASPCA took the dogs. But the couple’s tenants get released the same day after Service is charged with 20 counts of animal abuse and 20 counts of animal neglect. Dr. Gilbert arrived home that night after driving an hour and a half from her job in New Jersey at around 9:30 pm. and gets jumped by Ravon Service, who starts punching Dr. Gilbert in the head and face, screaming at her “where the f—- are my dogs?!” He rips off the windshield wiper of her car, and whips her in the face with it. She manages to dial 9-1-1 before the phone gets knocked out of her hand, making the connection and screaming her address into the phone. Just before she slipped into oblivion, she heard sirens. 

Gilbert’s husband Roderick tried to intervene, but got pinned down, attacked, and beaten by two younger boys, 16 and 17 years old. The teens were believed to be Kim Evylyn’s younger children, but could not be verified. The boys started punching him in the face and head, broke his ribs, and just wouldn’t stop – all done in front of the landlords’ children. The assailants were arrested, thank God, and the landlords have not seen them since. However, the saga continues.

This story was recently updated on The Real Deal, and the landlords are still not able to legally enter their upstairs unit – not even to clean it. The courts are backlogged up to two years. Now that’s a nightmare of a horror story, folks. 

And these were just a couple of stories off the top. Sometimes it’s interesting to look at situations from a different perspective. One thing I think we can all agree upon is that the problems run deep, and the archaic system is sluggish and extremely resistant to change. It’s going to require lawmakers with a good plan to take a strong stance, and stick to it until they see it through. Social unrest is palpable, and people want change. 

Rochelle Harris is a passionate writer originally from Phoenix, AZ. who credits her success to integrity and determination. She has a great sense of humor, loves music and her family, and writes fiction and poetry in her spare time. She is excited about the New York experience and lifestyle! Follow Rochelle on Twitter at @LinguisticAnRky or get in touch at [email protected]

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