An overcrowded house on Holland Avenue was the scene of a fire some believe happened because an absentee landlord created illegal subdivided apartments.
A house that neighbors called an eyesore for the past few years, 1731 Holland Avenue, caught fire at 12:07 a.m. on Sunday, August 29.
It took the Fire Department over an hour to control the blaze. While no one was injured, Van Nest residents are up in arms about the house.
Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who responded to community complaints even though the house is located in a neighboring council district, said that the fire was a shining example of the problems caused when people subdivide their houses and don’t follow building codes. He said there are over $36,000 in outstanding Department of Building’s violations revolving around construction without permits and illegally subdivided apartments at 1731 Holland Avenue.
“This is one of the buildings where the owner thinks that they can subdivide into illegal apartments and then not pay fines,” Vacca said. “This fire could have been prevented if the violations were handled immediately. It should serve as a warning for people not to illegally subdivide when they don’t have the expertise or the permits in their possession.”
According to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, there are numerous violations for failure to provide heat, electricity, and hot water to three apartments in the house. It is part of HPD’s Alternative Enforcement Program, which seeks to remedy properties with excessive amounts of violations.
Van Nest community leader Joe Bombace said that he was not surprised that the house caught fire, and said he believes all homeowners should properly screen their tenants. He said that certain properties in this community, including 1731 Holland Avenue, are being misused by absentee landlords.
“What happened here was that the landlord did not properly screen tenants,” Bombace said. “We have got to send a message that we will not tolerate absentee landlords who want to invest in our community but do not keep their properties up to code or maintain them. The sad thing with this house was that the writing was on the wall long before the fire even began.”
Bombace said that conditions at the house were so bad that neighbors were thinking about selling their houses. According to Department of Buildings records, the owner of the house is Paddy Taylor-Hadson.
The cause of the fire is currently under investigation by the FDNY.