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January 05, 2011

After Running Out of Appeals, a Burlington Renter Reluctantly Moves Out

DSC08849 A father and his young daughter moved out of a ramshackle Burlington apartment Wednesday, and a landlord-tenant dispute that has dragged on for years — even reaching the Vermont Supreme Court — finally came to a close.

The saga began in 2005, when Kevin Corcoran (pictured) and his 10-year-old daughter Rebecca rented a two-bedroom apartment at 68 Intervale Ave. in the city's Old North End. The rent was $500 a month. Corcoran, whose sole source of income is a monthly SSI check due to disability, paid $17 a month. The remaining $483 was subsidized by social services.

Corcoran's landlord, John Malcovsky, lives right around the corner on Crombie Street. Corcoran can see his landlord's house from his kitchen window.

Some time later, Corcoran began withholding his $17 a month in rent because, he says, of problems with the apartment that weren't getting fixed: a leaky toilet, exposed insulation around unfinished windows, and a leaky porch. Corcoran says rain storms that came through the leaky roof destroyed personal items he had stored on the porch, including his daughter's Barbie collection, family photo albums and 142 Beanie Babies.

"Every goddamn thing we had got ruined," Corcoran said Wednesday.

City code inspectors visited the apartment on numerous occasions and found violations, but found the dwelling met minimum standards for being "habitable."

In June 2009, the landlord moved to evict Corcoran for unpaid rent and utilities. The case went to an evidentiary hearing at Chittenden County Superior Court, and the judge sided with the landlord, awarding Malcovsky $2571 in damages and ordering Corcoran to vacate the premises.

Unable to afford a lawyer, Corcoran appealed the ruling "pro se" to the Vermont Supreme Court. On December 8, the court decided for the landlord — meaning Corcoran had to move out. The decision didn't address the merits of Corcoran's case — whether he was justified in withholding rent until promised repairs were made. Malcovsky won on a technicality; because the court didn't have a transcript of the 2009 evidentiary hearing (Corcoran says he couldn't afford the $500 cost), the supremes couldn't decide if the trial court was wrong to side with the landlord.

"The absence of a record of the proceedings or [sic] any record citations renders it impossible to address the claims," wrote a three-judge panel of the Supreme Court.

Corcoran was visibly upset by the whole affair Wednesday. "Six years, and this is what we get: A kick in the fucking head and my kid gets kicked out on the street," he said.

A message left for Malcovsky wasn't immediately returned on Wednesday and no one answered at his home.

DSC06905 Both units at 68 Intervale are undergoing renovations. When Seven Days visited Corcoran last August, we found the units in rough shape. Windows in the downstairs apartment (not Corcoran's) were unfinished and had exposed insulation (pictured). Ceiling tiles were stained brown and sagging (pictured below), apparently, from Corcoran's toilet above, which he says had leaked for some time.

Burlington Code Enforcement Director Bill Ward admitted the apartments had problems but said they didn't rise to the level of being a health or safety hazard. The bottom line: just because an apartment is dumpy doesn't mean it's uninhabitable.

Ward was able to help Corcoran out in another way, though — one that got him temporary assistance money sooner that he otherwise would have. Corcoran couldn't get assistance to pay for a hotel until he was out of the apartment, making it hard to make accommodations, unless the unit was deemed uninhabitable.

Last month, Ward inspected the apartment personally and found a bedroom window covered with a thick wool blanket to keep the cold out. Ward deemed that a fire hazard and and took the blanket down. When Ward returned the next day, that drafty bedroom was so cold (59 degrees, even though the heater was on full blast two rooms away) that he declared it uninhabitable, and gave Corcoran a letter to that effect, so he could get assistance immediately.

DSC06909 Once the apartment is empty, Ward said code enforcement will inspect it anew to make sure everything is up to snuff before new renters move in.

In the long term, Corcoran doesn't know what he's going to do. But on Wednesday, he was busy cleaning the apartment in preparation for the walk-through.

"I don't leave a place dirty," he said.

Corcoran? Corocoran? Corocan? Cocoran? This guy has a lot of aliases. Malcovski? Malcovsky? Let me guess, you were in a big hurry.

"The absense of a record of the proceedings or any record citations renders it impossible to address the claims,"

Did they really misspell "absence" (and leave out the "of" between record and citations)? Or is 7D still searching between the couch cushions for money to buy their writers software with a rudimentary spell checker?

I've got another one: "visibly," not "visably." Spell check would have caught that.

Why is this even a story? The guy didn't pay his rent and his landlord sued him. Landlord won as he should have. In this renter-centric town, the renters always win. It's nice to see the landlord win one here. As for this deadbeat renter, get a job buddy and stop squatting in apartments you can't afford. Disability my ass.

when did the 7days comment section start looking like the burlington freepress comments?
1) this is a friggin blog called "blurt"..spelling mistakes? deal with it.

2) we don't know why he's on disability (could be anything from a birth defect to an injury from serving in the military, one doesn't have to assume he's milking the system out of laziness), and the guy's daughter has no choice but to deal with this rough situation. renters have lots of protections in town, but apparently not when it comes to getting landlords to replace feces-soaked ceiling tiles. the guy shouldn't expect a palace for $500/mo, but doesn't everyone deserve a warm and feces-free place to live?

But not a free one. The guy pays $17/month for a two bedroom apartment?

Sure, the total rent is $500, but you think that's a good rent for the landlord? Why don't you try maintaining a perfect building for $500/month in rent, and probably with tenants who don't give a s___.

The City found the apartment habitable. They guy is withholding his $17/month because the landlord didn't make repairs fast enough for his liking?

He's the one who put his child in a difficult position, not his landlord. He played a game of chicken with the landlord for 5 years and he lost.

Neither the Vermont laws nor the Vermont court system is landlord-friendly. The fact that two courts sided with the landlord speaks volumes about who was in the right here.

And your tenant friend has quite a mouth on him. Does he talk to his 10yo daughter in that language?

Re: Last commenter-good point on the daughter. I hope the poor kid has someone less vulgar in her life to help her vocabulary expand. And - if 7D was going to correct the story after commenters, maybe the ethical thing to do would be note that corrections were made somewhere? Or even comment-post about that? "Thanks for the help?"

I'm curious why every quote chosen by the writer for use is merely slightly informative but moreover curse-word laden. Feels overly eager to find a reason to throw those in there without much purpose.

Lastly - did feel very predictably pro-renter, and I would've liked to hear some sort of balance on the landlord's end - maybe even from a an actual court spokesperson or Bill Ward. I mean, this guy has, literally been squatting (while someone else picks up the tab).

Sorry -- I was so busy mangling the spelling for my next article, I didn't get a chance to thank you for catching these! No seriously, thanks for catching our spelling errors. I literally didn't realize our TypePad program had a spellcheck function (I know, I know) but I've since found it! So yes -- we corrected the spelling errors. Hopefully that settles that.
As for more balance in the piece -- I couldn't reach the landlord. I called and left a message and knocked on his door yesterday afternoon, but no answers. The court file was in transit yesterday -- from the Supreme Court to the Chittenden Superior Court -- and was thus unavailable for review. As for Bill Ward, he wasn't sticking up for the renter. He wasn't sticking up for the landlord. He was just evaluating the shape of the unit based on city housing codes. He found the unit to have some problems but nothing that made it uninhabitable -- until the temperature dropped.

Interesting article. We could pick it apart until the cows come home, as they say outside Burlington. Where's the landlord? Did this guy agree to the conditions when he moved in? Was there a statement of conditions? Did the renter document needed repairs and send the letter to the landlord (or did he just stop paying because he made up his mind one day)? Why wasn't the apartment flagged by one of the social service agency inspections that are mandated annually? Oh, the nuances are endless...

But the story is one that repeats every day throughout the city. Personally, I'd love to see more landlord/renter stories. There are some real bad landlords and some real bad tenants. In this case, we may have just witnessed a meeting of the two.

#1-Any person calling him/herself a journalist/reporter/writer needs to own a copy of Mr.Webster's book,the dictionary.To blame spellcheckis nothing but lame,ie an excuse.Grow up and be respsonsible.
Although, I continue to be amazed at the continuous low level of capability in spelling, writing and proofreading in our papers today. Most fifth graders are able to better perform and for no paycheck, just a grade on a report card and hopefully,some praise from Mom and
Dad.
#2-Tenant only paid $17 ofthe rent that he then withheld. It appears that the state of VT, ie VT state housing authority(VSHA) continued to pay the lion's share of the $500 rent, in the amount of $483. And-when someone lives on disability,every $17 counts. Ever heard of the three squares(food stamp deal?-something like $38 a month to feed one person?Tried to do that lately?)


#3-This place IS A DUMP.Anyone who says it isn't is AN IDIOT and that includes Mr. Ward. He shouldnotbe allowed to be a landlord.
Vermont and Burlington fail their citizens who are tenants by allowing this landlord to stay active.

#4-VSHA does extensive inspections prior to approving an apartment.I know because I am aladnlord who deals with
VSHA. It sounds as if the inspector for the
Burlington area fell down on the job and badly.
That person needs to be fired,last year.

$5-VSHA has had thier funds from the feds cut drastically inn the last few years, yet we can contiue to pay our Congress people
$174,000 a year.Two of the Vermont contingent in
dc,
Sanders and Leahy, are each familiar with the
burlington area.Leahy is an attorney and former prosecutor.

what is their answer to why funds are being denied to
vsha? I have called each of heir offices with NO RESPONSE,yetLeahy continuesto keep his VT estate of a farmhouse and 130+/_ acres in current use, saving himself thousands of dollars in taxes and
Sanders' wife, VIS A VIS Burlington College- President, is buying the catholic diocese property (North Aavenue)for mega millions. Do you think they might be getting any federal grant (dollars) help with it, as he sure seemed to help the same college, pres and students, get into
Cuba on a visit? Cozy enough for you yet?
Call these dudes(DUDS) up and ask them, then see if you still feel so angry at Mr Corcoran for wanting a decent place to live.TheseDC dudes dot gie a rat's anything about us once they are situated in their dc seats, except a vote of reinforcemet every two or six years.
For some decent and quaity affordable housing, check out:
Knight-apartments.com. Then call Cheryl Premeont @ VSHA and tell her sukie said to call her. All landlords are not bad.

I am typing on a laptop and know I have errors of spelling on here, done in my haste to post and anger at others' insensitivity. Thank you."Be kind, be kind, be kind"-Henry James

"No seriously, thanks for catching our spelling errors."

Looks like someone got a talking to.

Does this family have a replacement home yet? How is the 10 YO daughter doing in school?

"How is the 10 YO daughter doing in school?"

I hope she succeeds, but her prospects don't seem too good. Her dad is a dope with a bad attitude and a truly foul mouth. What is he passing along to his kid?

My parents were broke too. But they didn't withhold their rent and they didn't use the f-word in front of us.

good job dad I love our story Do not listen to any body who runs there mouths they just dont know what there talking about.

dad I love our story .And ya im doing great in school every body whos CONSERNED!

love our story and love you two.

So, it's alright for you to quote Kevin Corcoran's profanity, but you find the need to censor my comment containing the truth about him and the lack of real research done on this blurt... shame on you Seven Days! Thought you all were waaaaaaay more progressive than that!

What reader's don't know is that the photos in the blurt ARE NOT from Kevin Corcoran's apartment! They are from the apartment below! hmmmmmm.....

Your misleading photos are just another blip in a totally misleading story.

This story is only blurtworthy because this guy now needs another Landlord to screw....

re: the photos above, from the blog post:

"Both units at 68 Intervale are undergoing renovations. When Seven Days visited Corcoran last August, we found the units in rough shape. Windows in the downstairs apartment (not Corcoran's) were unfinished and had exposed insulation (pictured). Ceiling tiles were stained brown and sagging (pictured below), apparently, from Corcoran's toilet above, which he says had leaked for some time."

Hi folks, we've taken down a few comments on this thread because of personal attacks. This is not a free-for-all message board. We will remove comments that violate our commenting policy.

Keep it civil, please.

If you have information that you'd like us to verify and report, please email Andy Bromage at [email protected]

Criminalizing comments ! See there is no freedom of speech or freedom of the press as i said earlier! Those like john malcovsky that own delapitated buildings always have friends in city hall and other places, code enforcement, health department and attorneys who have tight family members in law enforcement to hide behind! Whos in whos pocket?!? Webber whos pocket are you in to attack me when andy bromage only printed half truths! All we wanted were the repairs done ! We didnt ask to lose all our personal stuff that was on the back porch or to go from a 2 bedroom apartment to a 1 bedroom! John malcovsky told us when we moved in the repairs would be done immediately and over 6 years later hes still noncompliant and were forced into homelessness! Scire , what are you , one of the nosey neighbors , a friend of malcovskys or just some loud mouth thats in someones pocket that thinks just because someone has a lot of company constitutes you having the right to insuate that person as a drug dealer?

Well scire i have 16 kids and 11 grand children and yes aquaintances that came to visit frequently and you assume it was for drugs. Yes you made it very clear to read between the lines! As for my daughter shes doing great in school! Want to come talk to her teachers? People like you that run their mouths only do it to be the center of attention. My attention is on my child and the justice she was deprived of by a system so corrupt and set on covering up the truth to protect slumlords like malcovsky. So get your hand out of his pocket and your nose out of city halls ass and maybe you can look at this and see the truth! I dont like being the asshole but when it comes to protecting my kids i will take the charge! As i said , it takes action to get reaction! The landlords action was to use unjustified tactics to force us out of my daughters home into homelessness at the taxpayers expense, and you try to cut me down! Who ever you are id like to meet you face to face!

Hmm. . . You seem to have both the time, and the ability, to sit at a computer and compose essays and type them out. Those would seem to be marketable skills . . .

Um, . . . And why do you have 16 kids?

These are direct quotations from the Vermont Supreme Court's decision:

At the hearing on the landlord's eviction lawsuit, "The [Chittenden Superior] court heard testimony from both landlord and tenant, as well as the City’s housing inspector, and viewed a video of the premises taken by tenant. Thereafter, the court issued a written decision in favor of landlord."

In response to the tenant's arguments that the problems made the apartment uninhabitable: "Based on the evidence, however, the [Chittenden Superior] court found that the conditions in question did not impair the unit’s habitability and that landlord had been largely responsive to tenant’s complaints, some of which, the court concluded, were in retaliation for landlord’s notice of eviction."

True, the Supreme Court said that the tenant's failure to provide a transcript of the lower court hearing made appallate review of his case impossible; but the Court also noted that in his appeal the tenant did not even cite "to any documentary evidence, such as the inspector’s reports or the videotape, to support his claim" that the apartment was unsafe and unhealthy.

The tenant's final argument to the Vermont Supreme Court was to claim that the lower court judge was "biased."

Yeah, sure.

The tenant believes everyone is crooked or biased: the landlord, the code inspector, the judge, Andy Bromage, and several posters on this blog. Gee, I wonder why the judge didn't find him credible?

As far as this blog posting goes, I think it is overly simplistic to explain the Vermont Supreme Court's decision as merely that they could not do anything because the tenant did not provide a transcript of the lower court hearing. The Supreme Court DID point out that the lower court took sworn testimony from both parties, took sworn testimony from the city code inspector, reviewed the evidence (including the tenant's videotape), and found for the landlord. That should have been mentioned in this posting.

Also unexplained was whether the tenant sought legal representation through Vermont Legal Aid. Clearly he would have met the economic criteria for their assistance. Did he ask them and get turned down? Or did he not bother to pursue it?

And did the tenant bother to explore whether he could have gotten the transcript of the hearing provided to him for free as an indigent person?

He does seem to have the time and ability to argue and type and conduct court hearings . . .

Maybe the Chittenden Superior Court was also aware of the fact that this eviction case appears to be the 5th case, filed by five different landlords, against this tenant, in
Chittenden court, since the year 2000 . . . (Andy, this was easy to look up, and you should have.)

Geeez, Cathy.... since when is public information from the Superior Court off target for a comment in Seven Days?

The following is obtainable as public knowledge from the Chittenden Superior Court:

www.chittendensuperiorcourt.com/cscourt/servlet/ChittendenWeb.classes.WebCasesInitServlet
and type in: CORCORAN and you'll see some of the superior court eviction cases that Kevin Corcoran has been involved in. Just some facts that are public knowledge that's missing from this story.

Had you guys taken the time to get the real scoop you'd have seen another side to your protagonist..... This isn't the first time Corcoran has gotten the boot.

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