Tenants Sue Over Bedbugs in Building Owned By Shaoul

Two former tenants of a building owned in part by controversial real estate developer Ben Shaoul are suing the owners and managers of the walkup for failing to snuff out bedbugs.

The complaint, filed last month, alleges that the landlords of 508 East 12th Street were “willfully, wantonly, deliberate and grossly negligent” in dealing with the infestation, causing “pain, shock, mental anguish.”

Lauren Wilms, 24, and Alexandra Sanchez, 25, told The Local that they moved into the building in June 2011; within six weeks, bedbugs had infiltrated their home. During the three-month infestation, they woke up with bites on their bodies and faces, and had to evacuate repeatedly for exterminators, the plaintiffs said.

P.V.E. Associates proved difficult to deal with throughout the process, according to the roommates. “We were traumatized and broken down ourselves from dealing with this situation, but we were being yelled at by the management company,” Ms. Sanchez said.

jubbsDaniel Maurer 508 East 12th Street last year.

The two friends also allege that P.V.E. Associates knew about the bedbug problem before they moved in, but didn’t bother notifying them. Ms. Wilms and Ms. Sanchez said they learned that the tenants in the rent-stabilized unit above theirs had already been dealing with a bedbug infestation for several months. If the case goes to trial, their lawyer, Jared Cooper, plans to have the upstairs neighbors testify that they notified P.V.E. Associates about the problem before Ms. Wilms and Ms. Sanchez signed their lease, but received no response.

The roommates left the apartment when their lease expired in July of this year.

Mr. Cooper puts his clients’ financial losses – including money spent on hotel stays, dry cleaning and new clothes and furniture – at $75,000, but said they are suing for an unspecified amount well above that figure.

P.V.E. Associates declined to comment on the suit. Last week, the company, along with three others listed in the complaint as owners of the building, filed a response denying the bulk of its allegations and asserting that the plaintiffs were responsible for any injuries or damages they may have incurred. The complaint also cited “operation of nature” as a cause, and went on to say that if the plaintiffs did indeed sustained the alleged damage, it was due to the negligence of a terminator and of Prexus Holdings, listed in the complaint as one of the building’s owners.

Mr. Shaoul was not mentioned by name in the suit, but is listed on a Department of Buildings filing as a member of 508 East 12th Street Realty LLC, a partner in the building at the time Ms. Wilms and Ms. Sanchez were tenants. He too declined to comment.

Ms. Wilms said she wanted the management company to take responsibility. “They lied to us the whole time. We were treated completely unfairly,” she said. “We needed legitimate help and they are supposed to be the people that were there to help us.”