RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Renters living in a rundown house in North Richmond left complaints claiming their landlord is milking them for cash and not making repairs. The tenants, who are physically and mentally disabled, called NBC12 to come out and see the house.
The landlord said she was only trying to help the homeless. The Barton Avenue house has problems, but one agency said it's difficult to find property owners who will rent to the mentally ill. However, these tenants said some landlords know there's money in housing the homeless. Tenants we talked to say four people live in the house and the conditions are deplorable. The porch needs wood work and the house needs painting. In some places, it looks like the porch ceiling will cave in.
Tenants said the house was as is when they moved in with bad flooring, rotted decks, leaks, mold and plumbing problems. Two showers and a bathtub needed repair. They all said they haven't showered in a month. "It does nothing. It has completely come off. There's no way to get the piece in here that allows you to cut the water on," tenant Stephanie Spiers said.
Tenant Marion Presley was recently released from Central State Hospital. "I'll probably end up on the street or somewhere like that. You've seen the bathroom? Yes. I haven't taken a shower in a month," he said.
Landlord Donna Dillon said tenants tore up the house, and she's shutting it down. At first, Dillon talked to us on the phone, but by the end of the day, she called wanting to tell her side. "I fixed everything," she said. "Everything has been fixed when its needed to be fixed."
Tenants said the going rate is $500 a month for a room. Right now, there are four people. However, tenants said there have been as many as seven. "You add it up. She's grossing over $3,000 or better off this house a month," Spiers said.
Dillon said she wasn't in it for the money, but come April 5, she's closing up the house. She admitted it does need repairs but said tenants caused a great deal of damage. "They get room and board, cable TV, the utilities are included in that and whatever I can do to help them."
Tenant Arthur Newby said he also wants out of the house, "How did you end up here? RBHA. Because I didn't have a place to stay. I was homeless and I had a whole lot of medical problems."
Everyone here is a client of RBHA, also known as the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority. The organization's executive director said it gives clients a list of available places to live, it does not inspect the property and it doesn't handle their money. It also said it's working to place each person in a new home before April 5.
The landlord said each person has been offered help by RRHA. She said one tenant moved out, but the others complain but are not in a rush to leave even though RBHA said it has found them a new home. "They could be gone today, but they refuse to leave," Dillon said.
The landlord said she got in over her head trying to operate a home for homeless and mentally disabled with no on-site help. Dillon said the house is owned by ABC Services-HomeVestors and she rents from them. It is zoned multi-family. The residence is not subject to licensure and has no violations on the state or city level.
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