ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — “It’s been horrible. I thought I found a safe house to live in for me and my family,” said Justine Harris of 5 Taylor Street in the City.

Harris said she moved to this rental home last June in a bit of a rush. She found out later there’s a history here. 

“The family that lived here before there was a vacate order for a massive gas leak,” she said.

She claims past tenants had multiple untreated code violations. That —she said— has led to a partial ceiling collapse in her kitchen, another about to fall in a bedroom, the bathroom floor ready to give way, and a major rodent infestation.

“You can’t put anything in there because that’s poop,” she said pulling out her kitchen drawers for the camera.

Kitchen drawer Harris claims is full of rodent droppings
Harris showing sections of a ceiling she said collapsed

She says city inspectors have come out and cited these violations at the house. “They reassured me like they always do, ‘oh we’re going to look into it.’ That’s all they do: look. No action,” she said.

The landlord —Sharon Hamilton— told News 8 she inherited the property business when her father passed away last summer and is new to this. She said her father was the prior landlord.

Hamilton claims Harris moved to Taylor Street in a hurry. She said she’s worked with Harris to make repairs— and before Harris moved in, Hamilton claims there were no issues. She’s waiting for Harris to pay any kind of rent going back to roughly autumn; a sum now of over $7,000 owed. That money she said is needed to make the necessary repairs.

“You’re worried about rent? I’m worried about the safety of my children,” said Harris of the landlord.

Lawyer John Nacca of Nacca Law says this situation is a classic standoff that he sees often enough. Nacca said a tenant has the right to live in a habitable property, and a landlord has a right to collect rent, but here’s the bottom line.

“The short answer is… that the landlord is going to be obligated to make those repairs,” said Nacca.

He said it’s a pull and tug that might have to go to City Court for any resolution. For now, Hamilton waits for her rent and Harris waits at the home. 

“You know what’s wrong so fix it. Do your job. That’s all I ask,” said Harris.

The landlord did tell News 8 that Ms. Harris has been served an eviction notice and the home is now for sale. 

Justine Harris

The City of Rochester weighed in with a statement to News 8 saying:

“Cases like this one is exactly why the Mayor created the Housing Quality Task Force last year.” adding, “We feel for anyone who finds themselves in the spot that Ms. Harris is in. This case reflects a very specific situation, one that is rare. We refer all tenants in a troubling situation to local resources like Empire Justice Center or Legal Aid Society.”

Barbara Pierce, Director, Bureau of Communications