Sevier county motel residents evicted after sewage problem

Sevier county motel residents evicted after sewage problem

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The L Ranch Motel near Cosby has been the subject of a state environmental investigation. The L Ranch Motel near Cosby has been the subject of a state environmental investigation.
The motel is a long term residence, housing around a dozen families. The motel is a long term residence, housing around a dozen families.
The problem is the septic tank behind one of the cabins. TDEC also ”could not detect any free chlorine” when they tested the water. The problem is the septic tank behind one of the cabins. TDEC also ”could not detect any free chlorine” when they tested the water.
For these residents, the concern is two weeks’ notice isn't enough time to find new housing. For these residents, the concern is two weeks’ notice isn't enough time to find new housing.
By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

COSBY (WATE)  People living in a Sevier County motel are concerned after they were given notice to leave the property because of an overflowing septic system.

A 6 News viewer contacted the newsroom with concerns over the water safety and their eviction notice.

We learned the L Ranch Motel near Cosby has been the subject of a state environmental investigation.

The report from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said the agency visited the motel last Thursday after a complaint from residents. They found sewage was overflowing behind one of the buildings and “has the ability to reach the stream (Dunn Creak) that flows by the cottage” and the motel.

Now the owner has told residents they need to leave by May 1.

“We’re just asking for fair treatment as renters,” said Johnny Beacham, a resident of the L Ranch Motel for the last two years.

The motel is a long term residence, housing around a dozen families.

The problem is the septic tank behind one of the cabins. TDEC also ”could not detect any free chlorine” when they tested the water.

Within an hour of the inspection the owner, Edwin Musser, told residents they needed to leave by May 1. He also followed up with a letter that read “all utilities will be disconnected on May 1, 2014.”

We spoke with the owners, Edwin and Deena Musser, about the situation.

“We’d like to see nobody living here until we get this fixed,” Edwin Musser said.

Musser says they had no idea there was sewage problem until the state came to visit and he says the cost is too much.

“We just don’t have $6,000 to fix it,” he explained.

According to the state investigation, they did not order the residents to leave.

“I state to Mr. Beacham that this was not due to any directive issued by me or the Division of Water resources based on my findings during either today’s visit or subsequent conversations with Edwin Musser,” investigator Spencer Davis wrote in his report.

“They did not say they were going to tell people to leave but [Davis] said it was a recipe for disaster. We have kids here, we have people with cancer here, we do not want them drinking that water,” Musser said.

For these residents, who except for Beacham, pay rent on a week to week basis, the concern is two weeks’ notice isn't enough time to find new housing.

“We have working folks here, you have 10 families left here out of 13 that was here when this started a week ago, that work week to week, they can’t pay rent here and find a place to move and pay rent to move on such short notice,” said Beacham.

They're asking for 30 days. We asked the owners if they would allow that but they said everyone except Beacham has stopped paying rent.

“We just want people to be safe. I don’t know how it’s a financial burden. Nobody is paying their rent. I can’t keep the utilities on,” Musser said.

He says they tried to take out a loan but were unsuccessful.

Beacham said they did complain to the state about concerns over the sewage problems and they’d like to leave but say it’s a matter of finances.

“It’s not the point of wanting to stay, it’s needing ample time,” said Beacham.

We looked into the law and according to the Tennessee Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act:

 “The landlord or the tenant may terminate a week-to-week tenancy by a written notice given to the other at least ten (10) days prior to the termination date specified in the notice. The landlord or the tenant may terminate a month-to-month tenancy by a written notice given to the other at least thirty (30) days prior to the periodic rental date specified in the notice.”

We reached out to the Sevier County Health Department. Mark Samples, with the department says they are aware of the problem and to his knowledge the septic tank just needs a repair. They will know more in the next week.

According to the TDEC report, Davis instructed the owners to wait to make any corrective measures to the sewage overflow problem until they get advice from the health department.

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