ASHLAND, VA (WWBT) - After an NBC12 investigation into apartment problems at the Henry Clay Apartments on Randolph Street in Ashland, a slew of people came forward with the same issues.
We first told you about Hannelore Trayer and Cristina Thompson after they complained about a black mold problem and bug infestation inside their apartments. They say the property management company KRS Holdings and Great Richmond Rentals wouldn't fix the problems.
"It's just been an all-around awful experience," Trayer said.
Both women, on their own, had the mold tested. It came back positive for toxic black mold. They since moved out of the apartment complex.
We also spoke to a woman whose bathtub faucets were completely turned off, but the water would not stop running.
Since our original story aired on April 26, several people came forward with similar issues, including Kimberly Dixon.
"It's not living, I'm very uncomfortable," Dixon said.
Dixon, her boyfriend and three children under five years old live at the apartment complex. They moved in last October.
"There was roaches crawling up and down the walls, we had them painted in the walls," Dixon said. "Bed bugs crawling out of cracks in the floor, we had no fridge or air conditioner."
Dixon complained and says maintenance did come out the next day to clean the apartment, but since, she says, her time here on Randolph Street has been nothing short of horrendous.
"We've been sprayed for roaches since the day we moved in, and the bugs have been here since before we moved in," Dixon said. "And they didn't tell us. It's not fair. it's not right and then there is no way to get out once you get in."
Dixon also said since moving in, they have sprayed for roaches every month and sprayed for bed bugs four times. Because of this, Dixon has to remove most of the contents from her apartment and put the rest in the center of the home because of the spray.
"We've packed up four times, like really packed up, we have to take all our sheets and blankets and clothes out of the apartment," Dixon said. "We have to take our kids' toys down and take our furniture apart, so they can come in."
On her own, Dixon has also duct taped around her home.
"I've duct taped all my base boards, my heaters, my receptacles, just in case bugs are coming through," Dixon said. "I wonder if the people at KRS Holdings and Greater Richmond Rental would be okay with their children living like this."
Dixon said her family has tried to get out of the lease, but management refuses to get back to them about that too.
NBC12 reached out to KRS Holdings and Greater Richmond Rental again, who gave us an almost identical response to their comment on our last story.
"I received your email this morning and want to assure you that KRS Holdings, Inc. is taking this situation quite seriously. KRS Holdings is committed to offering the very best possible rental residences it can to its tenants and consistently strives to address maintenance requests in as timely a manner as possible. In regards to this situation, KRS Holdings continues to actively address all concerns as our residents share them with us."
Martin Wegbreit is the Director of Litigation at Central Virginia Legal Aid Society and deals primarily with tenant, landlord issues.
"We see cases by KRS, otherwise known as Greater Richmond Rental, on a fairly regular basis," Wegbreit said. "I am sure they treat a lot of tenants fairly and equitably but that is not a universal story and we see plenty of cases with poor housing conditions that are brought to the attention of KRS and for whatever reason they don't respond or they don't respond in an adequate manner."
Wegbreit said management companies get away with this type of behavior because tenants either don't understand their rights or enforce their rights.
"If you spend any time in any general district court in Richmond, you will see dozens if not hundreds of landlord, tenant cases brought by landlords every day," Wegbreit said. "Unlawful detainers for possession or sometime possession and rent. Every single day you will see that, but you will not, on the other
hand, see dozens of hundreds of tenant assertions brought by tenants contesting poor housing conditions and wanting relief from courts. And the reason is quite simple. Landlords have more money and power. They can hire attorneys, and the process is easy for them, and they flood the courts with unlawful detainers."
Wegbreit says tenants must stay current in rent, give a written notice listing the problems to their landlord and give reasonable time for the landlord to make repairs - and when that doesn't happen, they must take their matter to court.
"If your problems aren't being solved, you take the written notice you gave your land lord and next month's rent and go down to the general district court and file a tenant assertion," Wegbreit said. "You pay your rent into court, and you must do that within five days of when the rent is due and you will get a court hearing within two to three weeks."
Although this is a process, Wegbreit said, following Virginia law is a must.
"Virginia law gives them two options. Neither of them is a terrific option. One of them is to use the judicial remedy, which is as I described, being current in rent and staying current, given written notice and filing a tenants assertion," Wegbreit said. "For non-emergency cases, this will take six weeks, start to finish. For emergency cases, this will take three-and-a-half to four weeks. This is the safer route, but it's the longer route. The other thing a tenant can do is the non-judicial remedy, which is to give the landlord a 21, 30-day notice in writing. 21 days to fix the problem. If it's fixed, then the lease continues, and if the problem is not fixed in 21 days, then the lease terminates at the end of 30 and the tenant can move. That may be quicker, but it is not as safe, because there is no judicial approval."
Wegbreit said there is only one way this situation will change.
"If tenants flood the courts with tenant assertions, and if general district court judges start to see on a daily basis, dozens of tenant assertions, and especially if they are filed against the same landlord and management companies." Wegbreit said.
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