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Carrick landlord's former tenants closer to getting money back

| Friday, June 17, 2016, 5:00 p.m.
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Davin Gartley has been fined more than $14,000 for city code violations.

Refugees and other tenants who endured “unlivable” conditions in a Carrick apartment complex are one step closer to getting some of their money back after embattled landlord Davin Gartley failed to respond to a state lawsuit.

Gartley's failure to respond to the Office of the Attorney General's May 2015 complaint led to a “default judgment” against him, meaning the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas must accept as true the attorney general's complaints against Gartley and his companies — that he ran unlivable units without adequate water and sewerage in Carrick, had other properties that lacked water service or safety features in the South Side but collected rent and security deposits from his tenants despite the dire condition of his properties.

The attorney general's office will now ask a judge to order Gartley, 40, to repay all the security deposits to the affected tenants, which Sadie R. Martin, assistant press secretary to Attorney General Kathleen Kane, said totaled nearly $6,000. The state may also ask for rent refunds and other penalties, she said.

“Additionally, given defendant Gartley's continuous and systematic breach of his duties as a landlord, the commonwealth will seek civil penalties and a permanent injunction against defendant Gartley to enjoin (him) from operating as a residential landlord in the future,” Martin said in an email. “He would have to hire a suitable management company to manage and maintain the properties to ensure compliance with the law.”

Gartley's attorney, listed as Bruce Blissman in the lawsuit, did not respond to requests for comment, though he will have the opportunity to argue against the penalties the state is seeking. No date has been set for the hearing.

Many of the tenants of the Carrick apartments and townhouses Gartley ran on Brownsville Road and Berg Place were Bhutanese refugees who were forced to live with water provided by garden hoses and sewers that backed up into basements and driveways.

Jewish Family and Children Services placed a few of the refugees at the apartment complex before its condition deteriorated, but most of the residents had come through other organizations or “self-placed,” said Leslie Aizenman, refugee services director for the organization.

“We had a couple situations where we had a new arrival whose Pittsburgh relative was living there already, and they wanted them to be there. That's the only time we put somebody there,” Aizenman said, noting that the agency inspected the buildings before placing anyone there. “At that time, it wasn't like it became ... It wasn't fancy, but there weren't the obvious things that eventually showed up.”

When the Allegheny County Health Department shut the complex down in April 2014, the residents were relocated and Gartley was eventually ordered to pay a $14,000 fine for the code violations at the property. Still vacant, one of the buildings caught fire and was severely damaged March 20.

Gartley was put on two years of probation March 1 after he was arrested driving a U-Haul truck reported stolen, and was ordered to get drug treatment when he showed up to a criminal court hearing under the influence of methamphetamines, benzodiazepenes and THC.

On June 7, the District Attorney's Office withdrew charges that Gartley and a co-defendant were using some of his properties to run a prostitution ring, though spokesman Mike Manko said the investigation remains open.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-391-0927 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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