The RV camper Rodney Ramsey was living in is uninhabitable. NBC12 found the county building officials are unaware of a big change to the Landlord-Tenant Act. They're making life changing decisions using an outdated law.
Until two days ago Rodney's home for $700 a month was an RV behind his landlord's house. Pipes froze in the camper and the holding tank for sewage froze and burst February 14th.
Today, the camper is still a mess and has no water and inadequate heat.
"He's doing nothing about it. He just left and didn't call a plumber," said Rodney Ramsey whose sister called 12 for help.
Rodney invited us in to see the problems and lack of repairs he says forced an emergency move to his grandmother's home. Before that he relied on water from his landlord's well and neighbors.
"I fill up buckets and carry it in to flush the toilets and wash dishes and stuff and sponge bath," he said.
The day after the pipes froze Rodney says his landlord left for Florida but, he ran a hose across the yard first for Rodney to get water. The hose froze the next day.
"He did call me Saturday. Says it's supposed to warm up and said he was going to bring me back some tangerines," Rodney said.
NBC12 called the landlord Jim Kennedy. He tells us he owns several lots on the street which he rents to people with trailers. He says he went to Florida to sell property but left his tenant with everything he needed.
It's not his fault he says, he can't control the weather.
Kennedy says he hasn't taken any rent money from Rodney in two months, the camper is uninhabitable and might not be worth fixing.
"This is where he unplugged the thermostat from and he put it in his pocket," Rodney showed us. "He just takes the damn thing and put it in his pocket. It sucked when it was 20 degrees outside and these heaters weren't cutting it."
It's illegal to live in an RV year round in Middlesex but this use as a residence was grandfathered in the zoning ordinance in 1985.
The County also says RV's are exempt from the building code and another blow, it says the Landlord Tenant Act also does not apply because Kennedy doesn't rent 10 properties.
So, when Rodney's sister pleaded for help officials said their hands were tied.
"They said it was terrible. As soon as she said his name, they're like, 'We know Jim Kennedy and uh', then everything stops moving," Rodney explained.
NBC12 emailed the county a link to a story we did last year announcing the General Assembly's historic vote to change the law. Whether you're in a Virginia city or county, if your landlord rents out three to ten single-family houses, the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act does apply. Lawmakers expanded protections to tenants renting from small landlords but Middlesex didn't know this.
NBC12 talked to the building official again today. David Selph says county offices are now aware, and up to date.
He says they can't force the landlord to do anything, but the county is working to condemn the RV -- so it will never be rented out again as a home.
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