Grainger County families without power, water for weeks

BLAINE, Tenn. (WATE) - Several families in Blaine have been without water and electricity for weeks. The utilities were shut off after the state found safety issues. The families tried to get their landlord to make repairs, but so far, nothing's been done.

The landlord blames his tenants for the problems and claims they're behind on their rent. Tennessee's landlord-tenant law says landlords can terminate a lease if rent isn't paid, but tenants must be given 30 days notice.

That same law also says landlords are to maintain their rental property to make sure the home is safe to live in and doesn't violate any health rules.

Kelsi DeLong and her brother Collin will have to find a new place to shelter their rescue horse and their rescue pony. The DeLong family rents space for their animals on a farm in Blaine. Their rent, $550 a month, includes a mobile home, but the family no longer can live here because it's unsafe. Christy DeLong, her husband and children moved into the home in late October.

Dwight Collins is the DeLong family's landlord. In mid-November, a state fire marshal who was called to the DeLongs' property found unsafe wiring issues. The inspector checked another mobile home on Collins' property and it too failed an inspection.

In his report, the fire marshal ordered the landlord to draw up a repair plan. However, Dwight Collins failed to meet the deadline, so the power was ordered shut off.  

"They pulled this, which is the meter, then cut the power cord so power could be run until it's fixed by a licensed electrician," said Christy DeLong.

There's been no water or power to the home for weeks. 

Christina Yarbrough, Christy DeLong's neighbor, also pays $850 a month in rent to Dwight Collins. When the fire marshal checked her home, violations were discovered and were not repaired. The electric company was ordered to shut off the power.

"Pulled all the wires down. We have no electricity whatsoever until he fixes it," said Yarbrough.

With temperature in single digits for two weeks, Yarbrough's husband set up a generator, but the landlord apparently didn't like that.

"This is where Mr. Collins cut our electrical cord that was running from the generator to the house," said Yarbrough.

The Yarbroughs filed a police report and charged Collins with vandalism. A court date is next week.

"We moved in here because there was horse property. We did not expect these issues.  Now we have nothing. We have no heat, we have no power," said Yarbrough.

No one was home when WATE 6 On Your Side went to Collins' home, but in a phone call he said he's done nothing wrong.

We went to Collins' home to hear his side of the story. No one was home, we left a note. In a phone call, Dwight Collins told 6 On Your Side, he's done nothing wrong. He said the Yarbroughs and DeLongs were behind in their rent. Collins said they should have told him about the electrical problems and he would have fixed them.

The Tennessee landlord-tenant law says landlords must comply with building codes that affect both health and safety, and must make all needed repairs and take whatever steps are necessary to keep the property habitable.

Yarbrough said Collins taped a handwritten note to her door two weeks ago. It says no work will be done on her trailer until $2,500 is paid. Collins also wants Yarbrough to pay $1,018 for electrical repairs out of her own pocket.   

Yarbrough says she's paid the rent and has the receipts to prove it. Late last week, Yarbrough was served a court summons from Collins. He claims she now owes $9,900 in back rent and deposit fees for her animals. 

"People can't live like this. They don't have to live like this," she said. "And shouldn't be treated like this."

The court summons filed against Yarbrough says she must pay the money or leave the trailer. The case will be heard late next week on the same day Yarbrough is taking Collins to court for vandalism.

Collins maintains he's done nothing wrong and only wants the rent paid on both trailers.


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