When John Connelly grad found a listing for a six bedroom house at 108 E. Yates Street through Housing Solutions, he thought he had hit the jackpot.
If the address does not ring a bell, then the property’s landlord very well might. His name is David A. Church, and he’s the man who was indicted last semester on 10 counts of second-degree unlawful surveillance.
Church allegedly filmed female tenants of properties he owned on E. Yates Street, University Avenue and N. Cayuga Street. All of the tenants were students of Ithaca College and Cornell. According to Connelly, however, he was never told that Church was the landlord. In the advertisement from Housing Solutions, e-mailed to The Sun by Connelly, Ansel and Angela Acla are listed as the landlords.
Housing Solutions declined to comment for this article.
“Meghan Miller and I went and saw the house on Nov. 5 for the first time with Mr. and Mrs. Acla, and we were introduced to a guy named ‘Dave, who handles the maintenance and renovations.’ We asked why the house was vacant, because it’s a really nice house, and they said it was being renovated,” Connelly said.
According to Mrs. Acla, however, she and her husband never claimed to be the landlords. “We were just showing the house. I was there that day. We don’t own anything. My husband just knows Dave,” she said.
A few days after they first saw the house, Connelly arranged with Mr. Acla to have “Dave” meet them at the property so that they could show it to Bryan Beaudoin ’08, Hyo Park ’07 and Brandon Nocera, who were interested in joining them on the lease.
“Mr. Church, who hadn’t told us that he was the landlord yet, told us that even though we couldn’t provide the whole $3,600 deposit up front, he would get Mr. Acla to stop showing the house if some of us would be willing to sign the lease. Bryan, Brandon and I signed the lease, but Mr. Church did not countersign or provide us with a copy of the lease,” Connelly said.
Later in November, Connelly claims that Mr. Acla told him to send the checks to a P.O. Box in Ithaca to the order of C&C Properties. He says he then spent the next two months trying to reach Mr. Acla through the cell phone number listed on the Housing Solutions ad in order to complete the lease signing and pay the rest of the deposit, but received no response. On Jan. 27 Connelly says he called a number listed online as the Aclas’ home number.
The next day, Connelly called NYSEG to try and find different contact information, but a NYSEG employee told him she couldn’t give that information over the phone, but that she could call the landlord and tell him that Connelly was trying to reach him.
“At that point, I got a little suspicious, so I called the Tompkins County Clerk and they told me that the name on the deed for 108 E. Yates St. is David Church. I immediately recognized that name from the tons of coverage last semester around Ithaca and in The Sun,” Connelly said.
Mrs. Acla said she was surprised that Connelly thought there was a problem.
“We never got into details about who the landlord was and who did maintenance,” she said. According to one Ithaca landlord, however, even that is problematic.
“A landlord has the obligation of clearly presenting himself as an agent or owner of the property,” he stated in an e-mail.
Church told Connelly that he had made it clear who he was when they signed the lease and furthermore, he was attempting to sell the property.
“I said that, even if that were true, we wouldn’t be willing enter into any agreement with Church,” Connelly said.
Once Connelly discovered that Church was the landlord, he called the Office of Off-Campus Life, and they told him to write a letter demanding the deposit money back.
“It is our clear position that our tenants’ rights to privacy and safety cannot be guaranteed by any arrangement or agreement connected with you and that we must justifiably sever all agreements that may subject us to criminal acts, violations of our personal rights or perhaps even more heinous crimes or danger,” wrote Connelly, Beaudoin, Nocera, Miller and Park in the letter. They also demanded their full deposit be refunded to Connelly on or before Thursday, Feb 10. The money was not returned as of yesterday.
Connelly filed suit in small claims court, and the case is scheduled to appear on March 31. “Apparently there are other claims against Church, but in similar cases he hasn’t shown up. It’s frustrating because most likely he’s not going to show up, and then how are we going to get our money back from him,” Connelly said.
Simeon Moss ’73, deputy news service director, suggested that students utilize the resources available at the Office of Off-Campus Life when deciding whether to sign a lease.
“It’s possible to get background information on landlords. You’ll want to know that they have the proper certificates, and it’s always a good idea to talk to past tenants,” he said.
Archived article by Freda Ready
Sun Managing Editor