Sunday, November 06, 2016

Landlord Goes AWOL, Stiffing Vendors On Bills For Essential Services; Resulting Water Shutoff Forces City To Abruptly Boot All Tenants, Forcing Them To The Streets With No Place To Go

In Hopewell, Virginia, WWBT-TV Channel 12 reports:
  • Hopewell neighbors contact NBC 12 after they were suddenly evicted from their homes, stuck with no place to live.

    No running water at several apartments along East Broadway Street forced the city to evict the residents. Now those neighbors are speaking out about why they say their landlord is to blame.

    The problems started last month.

    "I went to take my trash around back and there was no dumpster," said Brenda McRae. According to a letter from the city of Hopewell, the landlord at the apartments never paid for trash pickup. Then came this.

    "Just yesterday morning, the water went off, and just a few moments later, everyone's here handing all this stuff out," McRae said, showing vacate letters ordering neighbors to get out by noon Tuesday.

    It’s a result of water bills that hadn't been paid. McRae says per her lease, her rent is supposed to cover it. "It includes the trash pick-up and water with the rent. I'm responsible for my electric bill," she said.

    So where's the landlord? "I've never seen the man. We don't know where [he is]. They can't get in touch [with him]," McRae added.

    NBC 12 called the rental office based in Richmond, but the line went to voicemail. NBC 12 then stopped by the Richmond home associated with property owner Brian Spencer. It appeared someone was home but no one opened the door.

    "The tenant has a very quick and effective remedy," says Marty Wegbreit with the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society.(1) He says in situations like this, renters can go to court demanding their landlord restore water. He says if you're forced out:

    "We give the tenant the right to seek damages," Wegbreit said.

    He adds those damages can include a portion of the rent you paid. Wegbreit also advises tenants to get multiple contact information of the person they're paying.

    "The landlord certainly knows where the tenant is going to be, it’s at the premises that the tenant is about to rent. The tenant needs to have as much information about the landlord," he said.

    In this case, neighbors feel stuck.

    "They have nowhere to go. There are people here with children," Shanna McRae said.

    Hopewell City Manager Mark Haley says even he has been unsuccessful in reaching the landlord. He says the Department of Social Services will work with displaced neighbors to help them find housing.
Source: Residents forced out of Hopewell apartments say landlord is nowhere to be found.

For a similar story involving a Richmond, Virginia building owned by the same landlord, see More tenants could face eviction after landlord avoids bills.
(1) Central Virginia Legal Aid Society provides free civil (non-criminal) legal assistance to low income people who live in, or have legal problems arising in, five cities and over a dozen counties in Central Virginia.

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