Digging Deeper: Dangerous Rentals

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Poverty is real and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 12.8% of people Adams County are living in poverty.

Although, many work and pay rent they still live in subpar housing because the city does not have a rental inspection program and without support from city council landlords are not being held accountable.

Broken windows, plywood for a door and busted locks, Just some of the problems some tenants have to deal with.

“I have to use a bucket to flush my toilet,” tenant Yvette Wilson said.

Yvette Wilson also uses blankets to keep cold air out.

“I can’t pull the window down otherwise it’s gonna come down and I’m scared I’m gonna get cut,” Wilson said.

She also says her landlord wouldn’t fix this broken lock.

“I put a lock on my door just so I can feel safe,” Wilson said.

Wilson says she has no desire to move, but wants the repairs made.

“I don’t think it’s too much for my stuff to get fixed when it needs to get fixed,” added Shear

Krista Shear knows what it’s like. She’s finally moving out of her apartment.

“It was leaking above my couches, but back in the corner it leaks and you know rotten out the wall and it’s rotten out wood in there, so I didn’t put any of my clothes in there,” Shear said.

She’s also been dealing with holes in the walls and roaches! We spotted roaches when we visited her.

“The roaches are not gonna go away until they get this whole place cleaned out, bug sprayed, cleaned from top to bottom,” Shear said.

Steve Bohnstedt, founder of the Quincy Poverty Project, says the city needs a rental housing inspection program to hold landlords accountable.

“A widespread issue of sub-standard housing, some are paying an absorbent amount of rent money for living conditions that are may even be placing them at risk health and safety risk,” Bohnstedt said.

Quincy Planning and Development Director Chuck Bevelheimer drafted a Rental Housing Occupancy Ordinance in July of 2017, aimed at establishing minimum health and safety standards.

“To be honest, I got about a 50/50 luke-warm reading from both the apartment complexes as well as the aldermen. Most of the aldermen had concerns about cost primarily it’s adding staff,” Bevelheimer said.

Bevelheimer says it would cost up to $150,000 to staff the inspection program.

Despite the cost, the Quincy Fire Department thinks it is a good idea.

“We do see fires in apartment buildings that are sometimes caused by deficiency, I think a rental rehab program would be good for prevention purposes,” Deputy Chief Greg Dreyer said.

The city will follow-up on complaints, but Bohnstedt says complaints are few because tenants fear retaliation from landlords.

“They feel they may get kicked out and be out on the street and even though they’re in a horrible condition where they’re living at it’s better in their minds then being outdoors,” Bohnstedt said.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that some units out there that shouldn’t be, people shouldn’t be living in. Unless we get a complaint about those which we really don’t, we really don’t get many, it’s hard to inspect them,”  Bevelheimer added.

Shear says she is glad, she can get out with the help of her family, but she worries about others.

“Someone else is gonna be stuck here and they might not have the help that I had,” Shear said.

WGEM News found the City of Quincy has no complaints on file for Shear’s apartment. But, the city did investigate complains at Wilson’s apartment, a document shows the City Building Inspector cited the landlord for three violations in October.

The Inspector says the door, front window, and the toilet must be fixed by November 9 or the city will file a complaint in court. Wilson says those repairs have yet to be made. But, her landlord told WGEM News over the phone that she plans to take care of it.

Digging Deeper into this, we learned Wilson’s landlord has filed eviction paperwork on her, because of past-due rent.

The eviction paperwork is dated October 2, just one day after Wilson filed a complaint with the City Building Inspector about the broken door, window and toilet. Wilson remains in the apartment, while the issue moves through the court system.

Complaints on rental properties can be reported to the City of Quincy Office of Inspection, located at City Hall Annex Third Floor, 706 Maine Street in Quincy. Contact number is (217) 228-4515.

RESOURCES:
Illinois Landlord and Tenant Rights and Laws (PDF)
Missouri Landlord-Tennant Law (PDF)
Iowa Landlord-Tennant Law (PDF)

 

Rental Housing Occupancy Ordinance draft from 2017:

 

 

 

Drew Brown

Drew Brown

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