RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Landlord tenant disputes are among the top calls for help coming into Call 12.
Like the Bonapart's and their landlord, such disputes are rarely cut-and-dry or settled without some debate. In this case, the ceiling collapsed and the renters say the repair work is taking too long and they're suffering.
But, the landlord says he was on top of the problem from the start.
A crew was out at the home this morning fixing the collapsed ceiling. So, repairs are happening. The bigger issue though is tenants knowing the legal steps to take when seeking repairs if your landlord isn't cooperative.
Felisha Bonapart vividly recalled the day the ceiling fell inside her home.
"When I went to pull the mattress off the top bunk the ceiling just collapsed. We had no warning. It wasn't leaking. No nothing. It just collapsed. I have asthma and bronchitis and so do my two smaller kids," she said.
Their health problems are why she says her family didn't have a lot of time to wait on repairs.
"The smell is unbearable. I haven't been able to eat or keep anything down since Tuesday. The smell is like I can taste it in my mouth. It's unbearable. We shouldn't have to live like this," Bonapart said.
Retracing the timeline from when the ceiling collapsed puts it at a little over a week. The tenants acknowledge the property owner did send a maintenance crew right after their first phone call to the landlord.
"He came out and they covered that up so that it wouldn't I guess fall anymore," Bonapart's daughter, also named Felisha, said. "He pinned those screws in there but you can tell the ceiling in my Mom's room is going to fall too."
Today, the landlord had the ceiling permanently repaired. He told NBC 12 during a phone call the damaged area needed to dry out before permanent work could be done.
He also said the A/C unit in the attic overflowed, damaging the ceiling because the outside drain pipe had become dislodged following a storm.
In the meantime, Central Virginia Legal Aid says there are three necessary steps a tenant must take.
First, you must be current on your rent and stay current. Give written notice to the landlord about the problem and wait a reasonable amount of time, at least 21 to 30 days for a response.
If the landlord refuses to make repairs, the tenant can arrange to pay rent to the court.
Central Virginia Legal Aid says these steps are the only way tenants can get repairs in Virginia. There is no rent with holding or partial rent payments because you're unhappy with the lack of repairs.
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