Knoxville woman's landlord neglects to repair leaky roof, kitche

Knoxville woman's landlord neglects to repair leaky roof, kitchen sink and fridge

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Valencia Brown's leaky roof. Valencia Brown's leaky roof.
Brown has to plug the gaps around her front door to keep the cold air out. Brown has to plug the gaps around her front door to keep the cold air out.
A piece of wood holds up her kitchen sink. A piece of wood holds up her kitchen sink.
Brown has to keep the baby food for her one-year-old in her neighbor's refrigerator. Brown has to keep the baby food for her one-year-old in her neighbor's refrigerator.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knoxville's codes department has given the owner of a rental home two months to make repairs.

A big hole developed in the living room of the home when it rained last week.

As we have reported, the state's Landlord Tenant Act says renters must be provided a safe environment.

The heat has to work, as do appliances, the home or apartment should be structurally sound, the roof shouldn't be leaking, and the list goes on.

Two weeks ago, a Knoxville woman had major problems with the house she's renting, but little was being done to fix things.

As the rain came down hard, it pelted the house Valencia Brown rents, exposing an obvious problem: water from the leaky roof carved a hole in her living room ceiling.       

"I left with the children earlier to go to doctor's appointments. When I came back, this is what I  came home to where the ceiling has opened up. This is what I found," she said. "I went from this bucket this morning to this bucket, now I'm using both buckets. I'm just surprised to see this in just a few hours."

The wet ceiling in the living room isn't the only problem.

There's not a hole yet in the main bedroom, but the ceiling is damp and peeling. Also, the floor is in bad shape.

"This is a hole in the floor. The floor is very weak," she said.
      
Two weeks ago when we first visited, Brown took us to the front door.

"Here I am using this towel to try to block the air. I have had to stuff rags down here to knock some of the air out. Here I can see clear outside the door all the way up. I can feel the air coming through. The refrigerator doesn't work. I do not store real food in here. For the children, I actually put my baby's food in my neighbor's refrigerator," she showed us.

Her contract shows the rent is $650 a month. She placed $975 down as a deposit.

"One of the worst problems is the sink," she said.

The sink leaks, so she's taken matters in her own hands.

"Well, I've stuck this brick under here and put the stick underneath just to hold the pipes in place," Brown said.

Following our visit two weeks ago, we encouraged Brown to contact city codes. She did.

A report shows nearly two dozen problems, with some issues needing to be repaired immediately.

Then, last week, as we were looking at her leaky ceiling, Brown's landlord showed up. We asked if he had any plans to fix the problems with the home.

"Yes, we're going to fix it, yes. Will you move the camera out of my face please," said landlord Arthur Spencer.

Spencer works for the owner of the home.        

"Well, we got a leak in the ceiling. I didn't know it was like that. We'll get it fixed," he said.

But he said Brown had not properly informed him of the problem.

"She told me once that the ceiling is, that it came down a little bit. She didn't say it was leaking like this," he said.
      
Quickly, the landlord had a workman under the sink repairing it.

The leak in that ceiling was eventually patched.

But the front door still hasn't been repaired, nor has the broken refrigerator been replaced.

For Brown, who has a one-year-old baby with special needs, as well as two other children, she now notified the landlord of her intention to find another home to rent.

She says the place she lives in is unlivable.

The landlord says Brown did not pay her January rent and she admits that's true.

Consumer experts say skipping rent payments is not a good idea, even if there are issues with a rental home or apartment.

But contacting codes investigators is one way of getting the landlord or owner's attention.


If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at 865-633-5974 or email ddare@wate.com.

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