Michael Schwartz for New York Daily News
State Sen. Jeff Klein leads press conference announcing a Bronx homeowners’ class action suit against The Bad Ass Group of developers
It was a “badass” way to do business.
A dozen first-time homeowners say a developer known as the Bad Ass Group steered them into purchasing shoddily-built homes that the city had not even cleared for permanent occupancy.
The group filed an $ 18 million class-action lawsuit in Bronx Supreme Court Friday against at least six companies — including real estate agents, attorneys, an architect and a builder — that collectively did business as an umbrella entity called the Bad Ass Group.
“Our American Dream has been stolen,” said one homeowner, Johanny De La Cruz, during a rally in front of the courthouse Friday, after they filed the court papers that sought damages for a litany of alleged offenses including breach of contract, fraud, conspiracy, negligence and attorney malpractice.
The residents complained they were rushed into buying the properties, and began having problems with heat, black mold, sewage backups, plumbing, leaky roofs and faulty boilers almost as soon as they moved in.
“Our cabinets were literally falling on top of our heads,” said De La Cruz, who bought her three-family home in Soundview for $ 670,000 back in 2006. “I’m paying close to $ 3,000 month in the winter (for heat) because there is no insulation in my house.”
Another homeowner, Martha Diaz, sounded a similar tune.
“When it rained, the water came inside of the house,” said Diaz, a mother of seven who purchased her two-family house for $ 618,0000 in 2006.
“I tried to clean it,” Diaz said, “but the kids started getting sick.”
On top of that, the plaintiffs said, the developer never obtained permanent certificates of occupancy for the houses of horror, which put the homeowners on the line for thousands in fines from the city.
When homeowners complained, they said the Bad Ass Group referred them to lawyers they now believe were in cahoots with the schemers, who did nothing to resolve the approvals or stop the city fines from accruing, said Andre Ramon Soleil, the homeowners’ attorney.
“Every three months, we would get fined,” fumed Mary Vizcaino, who bought her two family house in Soundview six years ago for $ 600,000.
The group is also suing the city, charging that the Department of Buildings was negligent in issuing temporary approvals before the properties were inspected — a policy that has since changed.
The eight Bad Ass Group members named in the lawsuit could not be reached for comment on Friday.
State Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Riverdale), who will host a legal assistance open house next month for other victims of the scheme, said the homebuyers were “caught in a perfect storm of lies.”
“These homeowners were subjected to a ring of corruption,” Klein said. “Really, all they wanted to do was own a home.”
Legal assistance open house for homeowners who bought from the Bad Ass Group, Jan. 16 at the Hutchinson Metro Center Conference Center, 1200 Waters Place in Westchester Square. For info, call (718) 822-2049.[EMAIL]jcunningham@nydailynews[/EMAIL]