Spring Valley fatal fire: Inspectors find hundreds of code violations from landlord

Rockland County building inspectors have found more than 250 fire and building code violations at 10 properties owned by the landlord of 118 S. Lake St., where a fire killed five people on March 4.

The fire − which took the lives of two children, ages 4 and 13, and three adults − spurred the inspections of properties owned by landlord Jacob Jeremias.

Tenants were packed into 118 Lake St., a wood-framed, two-family house. An investigation by village police has determined 18 people lived in the house, nine on each floor, said Det. Philip Fantasia.

“This investigation is still ongoing, and we are working tirelessly to ensure all aspects of this investigation are conducted,” Fantasia said.

The Rockland District Attorney’s Office has been kept informed on the investigation, Fantasia said, declining further comment. District Attorney Thomas Walsh and his spokespeople have declined comment. The office usually doesn’t comment on investigations or whether one is being conducted.

Fantasia said the fire, considered accidental, ignited in the first-floor kitchen. He referred questions to the Sheriff’s Office fire investigation unit. Sheriff Louis Falco has said an electrical issue started the fire. County Executive Ed Day said fire investigators focused on a faulty electrical outlet.

Spring Valley fire: Electrical issues likely sparked the fatal Spring Valley fire, authorities say. What we know

Fatal Spring Valley fire leads to inspections: Violations found at next-door houses

Spring Valley police: Officers recount harrowing moments from Lake Street fire

The Lake Street fire led to inspections of several other nearby houses owned by Jeremias, who owns up to 12 rental properties in the village, according to the Spring Valley tax roll for 2022. His holdings include properties on Lake Street, two on Ohio Avenue, and single properties on Cole Avenue, Sherwood Avenue and Jay Street.

 The Spring Valley Board of Trustees has allowed Jeremias and other property owners to subdivide their properties to build additional profit-making housing units.

Inspectors for two Rockland government agencies found more than 400 violations at 10 properties owned by Jeremias in Spring Valley, including several on Lake Street, according to Day’s office.

The Center for Rockland Codes Investigations found an additional 150 violations under the county sanitary code, which covers kitchens, restaurants, water sources, and pools, among other issues. The center has countywide jurisdiction, while Buildings and Codes jurisdiction is just Spring Valley.

Neighbors say the landlord doesn’t respond

Tenants at Jeremias’ property at 120 S. Lake St. have said they experienced electrical problems, such as a hallway light bulb that didn’t turn on and a non-working radiator that didn’t generate heat. They said their complaints to Jeremias or his representative seeking repairs and general maintenance fell on deaf ears.

Fire sparks inspections of landlord’s properties

Since the fire, authorities said, the Rockland Office of Buildings and Codes and the Health Department’s Center for Rockland Codes Investigations have been inspecting the properties in Spring Valley owned by Jeremias, his wife Esther “Esty” Jeremias, and those under his corporation, 7 Ohio LLC.

The Building and Codes Office only has inspection authority in Spring Valley, a 2 1/2 square mile community of working-class residents, families on social services, immigrants, and older-rental housing and apartment buildings. The village has a growing Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish population.

The Rockland government created the office after the state deputized Rockland to take over building inspections in Spring Valley in December 2021. The office has been inspecting and prosecuting violations since Feb. 14, 2022.”

Read the complete Journal News coverage here.