Syracuse battles absentee landlord

To four Syracuse families, it appears water has become a weapon in an on-going battle between the City of Syracuse and a landlord named Dov Silver, who lives in Montreal. Recently the battle over back taxes, unpaid water bills and codes violations caused the city to shut off water to four of his homes.

For the past week, four adults and four young children, at a home on Bellevue Avenue, have been trying to cope without water. Paul Omilanowicz realizes water is something you take for granted until it's gone. He's had to haul in water by buckets to flush the toilets and buy water for drinking, while unwashed clothes pile up in the hallway. Omilanowicz worries for the four young children in his care, "right now, technically, they can say I'm endangering the welfare of minors...actually, the city's endangering them."

Omilanowicz is caught in the middle of a battle between the city's Corporation Counsel and the owner of his home, Dov Silver. Though the property management company hired by Silver paid $2500 in back water bills last month, the city refused to accept payment until it sees a photo ID of Silver and the contract with Syracuse Homes LLC. The office manager of the property management company, Aaron Benezra, says he's "outraged" by the way the city is treating the tenants.

Corporation Counsel McMahon has been battling absentee landlords for years. He says he refused to accept payment of the water bills because Silver has not complied with the city's landlord registry and owes $35,000 in back taxes. McMahon says he does not even know if Silver exists. The City claims Silver, and another so-called absentee landlord, Alexander March, have been transferring the properties back and forth to avoid complying with the city's Landlord Registry.

After we contacted McMahon this morning about the tenants complaints, he ordered that the water to the four homes be turned back on. The Corporation Counsel claims he did not know the four houses were occupied.