Couple gets burned by Buffalo’s hot real estate market

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Buffalo is becoming a hot real estate market, but that good news could have a down side: as much as prices have gone up in the last year, property in the Queen City is still cheap, making it a bonanza for international investors.

Matt Henry and Mariah Tyner are learning about that first hand, after they tried to contact their landlord and found out he lives in Kuwait, a country in the Middle East.

The couple moved into an apartment on Seneca Street in the Seneca-Babcock neighborhood last month that has no gas, no electricity, and in desperate need of repair.

Henry described their aggravation as, “Absolute hell. That is probably the best way I could actually put it.”

He and Tyner live together, and said the property manager assured them the unit would be ready to move in after they did a walk through inspection in May. But when they showed up with their belongings on June 1, they had no choice but to move in.

“It looked like it had already been slowly in the process of being renovated and fixed up, and what not. When we moved in on June 1, it was the exact same way as when we came in and viewed the property,” recalled Henry.

Without the utilities, Mariah is frustrated, too.

“I can’t cook, I can’t store food in the house, I can’t do laundry. I can’t clean the house, vacuum the rug, scrub or any of that.”

Shortly after the pair moved in, their upstairs neighbor fell through the railing on the balcony, and landed on Henry. The neighbor has not returned, and the landlord is trying to rent it out.

The house needs so much work, Common Council member Richard Fontana posted a notice on the front of the house saying it is unlivable, but the property is still being advertised on Craigslist, and the contact person has been unreachable.

Neighbors said the upstairs apartment has caught fire, and about six years ago, the house was set to go on the city’s demolition list.

Fontana said, “This is a property that is derelict. It has been a problem for years. Somebody bought it, put a little lipstick on it, and tried to rent it out, and it is really just ripping people off.”

Tyner’s mother also moved in with the couple. She has diabetes and Tyner said electricity was crucial to keep her medicine refrigerated, so they kept the insulin cool in a neighbor’s refrigerator.

Two weeks ago, Tyner’s mom died in the house next door.

Dealing with the aggravation of a landlord on the other side of the world, Tyner said, “It is like dealing with a ghost. When you call them they don’t answer, and if they do answer, it is short quick responses that don’t get you anywhere.”

Fontana said out-of-town investors like this are turning into a big problem in Buffalo.

“There is no property registration for it, no landlord licensing for that property. So it is really not legal to be in that property, living in that property at this point.”

City officials say when out-of-state property owners are hauled into Housing Court over code violations, fines and penalties often go uncollected because court officials have no ability to enforce them.

News 4 tried to reach the property manager for the house on Seneca Street by phone and email, but so far have received no response.

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