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Little Neck landlord sued over blaze

Fran Hoef-Bouchard filed the suit in Kings County Supreme Court which claims her former landlord, Jerry Lebedowicz, who owned the Brooklyn apartment where she lived, is responsible for the damages because he allowed a man to live illegally on the commercial floor of the apartment. She contends the man started the fire that left her homeless, the suit says. She is accusing Lebedowicz of negligence, property damage and breach of warranty of habitability, according to court documents.She is seeking $50,000 in property damage, $50,000 in breach of warranty of habitability and $100,000 in negligence.Lebedowicz could not be reached for comment.Court papers indicate that Lebedowicz rented the commercial unit of his building, 85 Nassau Ave. in Brooklyn, to a man who began living illegally in the unit and subsequently created a fire hazard by accumulating mass amounts of garbage in and around the building and by leaving burning candles unattended.The man, who was known to other tenants as "Benny," began renting the unit last summer and did not operate a legitimate business but instead lived in the space, "sleeping on a mattress strewn on the floor and selling used items and pornographic material," the suit says.Hoef-Bouchard lived in one of the building's four apartments located on the second floor and complained to Lebedowicz about Benny on various occasions but was ignored, according to the suit.In January 2008, the electricity to Benny's unit was shut off and Benny began to light candles, leaving them haphazardly on piles of debris, the suit says. On Feb. 29, Hoef-Bouchard awakened to find her apartment on fire and immediately evacuated the premises with her pets and neighbors.Fire Department and emergency services were able to extinguish the blaze and determine that the fire started in Benny's unit, the suit says.Hoef-Bouchard's suit maintains that Lebedowicz is negligible for his tenant's conduct by not investigating her complaints about Benny and rectifying the situation, . The suit also says Lebedowicz knew or should have known that Benny was illegally living in the commercial unit and presented a fire risk by accumulating large amounts of garbage and leaving lit candles unattended.She's lucky to have made it out of the apartment alive, said Hoef-Bouchard's attorney Leonard Zack.

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