Renters are dealing with landlords they say don't care about their properties or their tenants - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Posted by: George Metaxas, 2/5/04, 6:16 p.m.

Renters are dealing with landlords they say don't care about their properties or their tenants

By Aaron Diamant

Across Memphis, renters are dealing with landlords they say don't care about their properties or their tenants. Renters should beware in this Target 5 Investigation. The ceilings came crashing down during the storm overnight. Back in September, Code Enforcement Officers ordered the man who owns this complex to repair the ceilings in this unit because they leaked. The family who lives here, says despite numerous complaints, the landlord never finished the repairs. Turns out stories like this aren't unique.

"Good morning. Come on in." While happy to see Code Enforcement officer Tony Newsome and his clipboard, most of those who live in the Mississippi Court Apartment complex are very angry. They're angry at their landlord, Vernon Jones. Renter Eddie White said, "I'm sick of going through what I'm going through." And, one inspection quickly turns into three. Target 5 watched as Inspector Tony Newsome found many serious safety violations in several apartments in a complex he's visited before. Not only is the heater broken in the unit, but there's a big hole in the ceiling that leaks. Insp. Tony Newsome, Code Enforcement said, "Our responsibility is to make sure the public is safe and if we can't do that then we failed the public and we're not out here to fail the public." But Newsome says it's a never ending job.

Lisa Potts uses open flames from her stove to keep her place warm. There are also exposed wires and pipes, burnt out electrical sockets, not to mention unfinished floors in both the kitchen and the bathroom. The renters say repeated complaint calls to Jones have gotten them nowhere. Potts said, "It's very stressful dealing with him. It's very stressful. He won't listen to us." Even though some tenants say Jones recruited them with promises, the problems would be fixed before they moved in. Renter Lisa White said, "He came got us, brought us over here to see the apartments, gave us the lease and everything." A lease she and other tenants say they signed in good faith. "At this point the owner needs to come in and make a lot of repairs. From the damages that I've seen this morning he needs to get on the ball as far as making these repairs." By law, some repairs, like the heat, have to be made within 24 hours. Target 5 stopped by Jones' house to find out when he plans to do it.

Target 5: "I was looking for Vernon Jones."

Man: "Vernon!"

It seemed like we were in luck so we waited.

Man: "Yes?"

Target 5: "Mr. Jones?"

Man: "He's not in."

Target 5: "He's not? I was looking for a Vernon Jones. I'm Aaron Diamant with Channel 5."

Man: "Uh huh."

Target 5: "Are you sure you're not Mr. Jones? The other guy seemed to think there was a Mr. Jones here."

Turns out we actually had better luck than Inspector Newsome who showed up a little while later with a fistful of citations. Even though we knew someone was inside, he couldn't get anyone to come to the door. And after waiting a while, he just stapled the citations to the door. The latest step in what for many renters and inspectors seems like an endless cycle.

Target 5 eventually did get in contact with Vernon Jones by phone. He told us he plans to make all repairs Code Enforcement requires. But there's a bigger picture here. Some say the laws aren't tough enough to force any landlord to keep his or her place safe and up to code.

Coming up tonight at 10 we'll show you why.

If you have concerns you want our Target 5 team to investigate, send us an E-mail.You can also call our Target 5 hotline. That number is 722-7842.

Renter's information from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs

Landlord Tenant Laws

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