Friday, December 2, 2011

New Haven Slumlord Continues Pocketing Taxpayer-Subsidized Sec. 8 Rent Despite Stiffing Tenant Out Of $30K Lawsuit Award For Ceiling Cave-In Injuries

In New Haven, Connecticut, the New Haven Independent reports:

  • It’s been more than two years since the bathroom ceiling in Delwanna Wiggins’ apartment caved in on her. It’s been four months since Apple Holdings LLC—one of New Haven slumlord Michael Steinbach’s corporate aliases—was ordered to pay her $30,665.50 in damages. Wiggins never got a cent.

  • Steinbach, on the other hand, continued to collect rent for her apartment from the government long after the ceiling collapsed—courtesy of the taxpayer. Wiggins lives in a property with rents subsidized by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 8 program.

  • Her encounter is the latest example of the individual impact of a string of problem properties controlled by Steinbach and his partner Janet Dawson, with the generous help of government officials. “I was going through a hell of a lot of pain,” said the 34-year-old Wiggins, who was pregnant at the time of the accident. She miscarried a few months later.

  • She called her lawyer about the accident, gave her testimony. They filed suit. They won. She thought justice had been served. But when her attorney, Loren Costantini, sent out a notice to Michael Steinbach to collect the $30,665.50 judgment in September, all he got in return was a notice of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

  • It turned out that Apple Holdings, LLC had filed for bankruptcy in August. That would make it far more difficult for the damages to be collected, Costantini said. “I’m disgusted by the situation.”

  • Since then, Wiggins has given up hope of getting any money. She has an infant son to care for. Her mother, who lives in the apartment directly below her, has cancer and visits the doctor as often as twice a month. Before the accident Wiggins was a store manager at McDonald’s making good money; she hasn’t been able to work since then.


  • Michael Steinbach and his business partner, Janet Dawson, own hundreds of rental properties in New Haven under a never-ending string of corporate aliases. Rents at many of the properties are paid for by the government’s Section 8 program, which means they must pass regular housing inspections. Tenants allege rampant abuse by the landlords, who they say just “barely” fix what needs to be fixed and then let the problems rot until the next year’s inspection.

  • City inspectors consider them among the most notorious of New Haven’s problem landlords and have been chasing them for years to take better care of their properties. The two are listed as defendants in more than 100 lawsuits in Connecticut. Many of those are foreclosure lawsuits that they’ve managed to drag out for years while continuing to collect government rent.

  • Others allege defective premises and were filed by people like Wiggins. (Click here to read a story in the New Haven Advocate about more of those lawsuits.)

For more, see Ceiling Fell. Baby Died. Slumlords Paid Nothing.

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