Landlord’s water shutoff scheme leaves Falls grandfather homeless


NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – Dallas Mort pays his bills, works hard, and tries to be a good citizen, but on March 17, the Niagara Falls Water Board shut off his water. As a result, Mort had no running water, so a Niagara Falls code enforcement officer condemned the property as unsuitable to live in.

The Niagara Falls grandfather was surprised and angry, “I had a knock on the door and it was the Water Board, there to turn off my water. When I went outside to argue with them the city inspector came around the corner, they turned off my water and condemned my house all at the same time.”

The Water Board disconnected Mort’s water service because his landlord, Ralph Pescrillo, asked for the shut off, a tactic whose sole purpose it seemed, was to force Dallas and his fiancée to vacate the property—a tactic that Pescrillo is accused of using on other tenants.

Dallas used to work for Pescrillo, but when he filed a complaint with the State Labor Department, and won a judgment, it all seemed to go downhill, “He is supposed to be paying me a lump sum of money for damages for firing me.” How much is he supposed to be paying Mort? $30,000.

In what seemed to be an act of retaliation, Mort said, Pescrillo tried to evict him from the house on Grand Avenue, but a judge ruled in Dallas’ favor, saying he could stay in the house until his landlord worked out the settlement with the Labor Department. The settlement is still pending.

Instead, Mort said Pescrillo sidestepped court and had the water turned off, yielding the same effect, and cheaper–forcing Dallas to leave, but without going to court. The Water Board charges a $75 disconnection fee, “He went ahead and got my water turned off, got my house condemned, so I had to move.”

With his house condemned, Mort said he was actually homeless for a couple of weeks, forcing him to stay with family and friends as best he could, until a good friend allowed him to stay in the house where he is living now.

News 4 has learned at least 3 other people have been forced out of their homes, using this tactic, including a pregnant mother who has been without running water for more than three weeks, and there are likely more.

Officials for the Niagara Falls Water Board told News 4 they are taking another look at their shutoff policies, and may be making changes. When contacted by phone, Ralph Pescrillo was asked for an explanation of the water shutoff tactic, but he refused comment.

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