Renters: Landlord allowed substandard conditions

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 24, 2013

LANDIS — An Everhart Avenue couple say the home they rent has faulty electrical wiring, mold, plumbing problems and raw sewage running into their yard. And they say their landlord — a member of the town’s Board of Aldermen — won’t make the repairs.
Alderman Tony Hilton called the couple’s accusations retaliation for an eviction notice.
The town’s manager said a Landis code officer has inspected the outside of the home, and Hilton has agreed to repair problems found during that inspection.
Samuel McCluney and girlfriend Wendy Lilly have lived with Lilly’s four children in the three-bedroom house owned by Hilton for three months. It sits near the end of Everhart Avenue, a short road, just around the corner from Hilton’s South Main Street home.
Hilton does not deny the house needs work, but said the couple came to him in dire need of a place to live. He said the two agreed to put in new flooring, paint and clean.
McCluney and Lilly said they cleaned the house, put down linoleum and painted. But he said they still have to clean every Saturday because of the mold.
They say Hilton, as property owner, is responsible for electrical, plumbing and sewage issues.
When asked about the accusations of substandard conditions, Hilton said McCluney and Lilly owe him rent money and that their complaints are “retaliation” because he’s evicting them at the end of the month.
McCluney admits they are behind on rent based on their lease, but he says they had a verbal agreement with Hilton to make installments toward rent. He said the issues began long before the eviction notice.
Hilton said he is taking care of everything and “they have an option — they can move.”
McCluney said when he and Lilly moved in, they saw black spots on the walls, but cleaned it and repainted the walls. He said they realized later the black spots on the walls were mold. The family cleans the bathrooms with bleach and wipes down the walls, but the mold returns, McCluney said.
The family bought inexpensive linoleum and placed the tiling on top of the existing floor, but McCluney said they did not attempt to fix the electrical, plumbing and sewage issues.
“I’m not licensed,” he said.

The couple said lights in the bathroom do not turn off, despite flipping the switch in either direction, and sparks appeared at the base of the kitchen light when they turned it on. McCluney said the light fixture was looked at, but if he puts a bulb in the socket, there are still sparks.
“I’m more concerned about our kids’ safety,” McCluney said.
The children are 17, 15, 13 and 12 years old.
McCluney said they’ve had to toss the children’s bed frames when mold began to grow on the frames, and they put the mattresses on the floor. When the mattresses began to show signs of mold, the couple bought a second set of mattresses to place on top of the moldy ones.
Lilly said she went to town hall to dispute her water bill shortly after they moved into the home. The first water bill said they used more than 10,700 gallons of water in just 13 days, she said.
The couple said they reported to Hilton they believed there was a leak somewhere because they were being charged for use of too much water. McCluney said their complaints fell on deaf ears.
“The house needs work. Everything needs work,” Lilly said.
The couple say a week ago they were told they could continue their installment payments, but received an eviction letter in the mail May 18.
Hilton said this is the second eviction letter he’s sent; he sent the first on May 1.
“They came to me and said give us another chance,” Hilton said.
“I had plumbers down there, and we found a leak. We are working to get everything fixed,” Hilton said.
He said the electrical work was supposed to be fixed, but McCluney and Lilly deny it has ever been repaired. In fact, they and Hilton disagree about whether anything has been repaired.
Hilton said he told them the house needed work prior to their move, and the couple insisted “they needed a place to stay.”
Hilton said he’s addressing the sewage issue.
“We’ve replaced some pipe. We thought we had it fixed, but we may not,” Hilton said.
The town of Landis has conducted a preliminary investigation. There are no formal written reports or citations generated from the property, said Town Manager Reed Linn.
City codes require only an exterior inspection during a preliminary investigation. The findings are taken to the property owner, who has a certain amount of time to make needed repairs. The code enforcement officer returns to the property to conduct an interior and exterior physical inspection.
Linn said the time frame depends on the repair work needed to take care of the issues.
If the property owner does not fix the problems, then the town would place a notice on the property notifying the occupants and the property owner that a minimum housing investigation would commence.
“We found a wastewater leak and then we’ve notified the property owner, and he is already making repairs,” Linn said.
Linn said Hilton told him the repairs were being made “now” and that someone was working on it. Lilly said that as of Friday afternoon, no one had come to the house.

Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: Facebook: