Tenants: Landlord rented illegal apartment

A family that just moved from a shelter says it has been living in an illegal Morrisania basement apartment that is in need of renovations.
Peeling paint, holes in the walls, leaking ceilings and broken locks are just some of the complaints from the family that lives in the unit at 883 Cauldwell Ave.
The apartment's only two windows were boarded up over the weekend before Housing Preservation and Development inspectors came to the home to perform an inspection Monday. Tenants believe that this was done to make it appear as though the unit was unoccupied.
But the landlord said the windows were boarded because the building was being steam-cleaned and he didn't want the windows to be broken in the process.
"I didn't know I was living in an illegal apartment," said tenant Tirsa Castillo, who moved to the unit from a shelter with her two children last month. "Suddenly, they came to close the windows with plywood."
Castillo says she pays $1,050 a month to live in the unit.
According to a Department of Buildings certificate of occupancy, the basement should be part of the first floor unit, not a separate apartment. HPD inspectors found numerous violations when they returned Monday evening, according to Castillo.