Brooklyn tenant covers up aunts death for cheap rent

Posted at 6:43 PM, Mar 30, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-30 18:43:11-04

NEW YORK (PIX11)– Rent-stabilized apartments in New York are a rare and coveted find.

Now a new lawsuit alleges one Brooklyn woman covered up her aunt’s death for more than four years to take advantage of the domicile discount.

According to the suit filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court, 55-year-old Brenda Williams kept the death of her aunt a secret so she could live in this Prospect Heights building for less than $300 a month.

“When you’re trying to save for college and all those things, if I could pay $300 a month for rent, that would be nice.”

Members of the building’s co-op board say Williams continually lied after her aunt Debbie Vaughan passed away, paying rent with money orders in her aunt’s name and even sharing occasional updates about Vaughan’s health.

Neighbors say Williams told them if anyone knocked on the door it could cause her aunt to have a heart attack.

The plan unraveled in 2010 when a plumber had to go into the apartment to fix a leak.

After eventually granting the plumber and board president access to the apartment, Williams claimed her Aunt was sleeping in the living room.  But when the neighbor went to say hello, Vaughan was nowhere to be found.

After checking death records and learning that Vaughan actually passed away in 2007, the apartment owner is now suing Williams.

The owner wants the 55-year-old evicted and 405-thousand-dollars for back rent at fair market value – which is now about twenty two hundred a month  farm more than the $287 a month Williams paid when she took over for her aunt.

But here in Prospect Heights where most renters are paying ten times that amount, they say they can understand why somebody might go to such lengths to hold onto a rent-stabilized apartment.

“We’ve had lots of friends that have actually been priced out of the city because they A couldn’t afford to buy anything and B it’s not very beneficial to keep on paying very very high rents and have your rents go up.”

And some feel creating more rent-stabilized apartments might actually be better for the city.

“It seems like it allows for families, and older people and people without a lot of means to live here for longer periods of time.”

But for Williams, that period of time may soon come to an end.