TARGET 8: Tenants say apartment complex construction means danger
SHELBINA - Betty White walks with a cane and has a limp in her step; she says it's because of a serious knee injury she got outside of her home. She said she was hurt when she fell to the ground steps away from her front door at her apartment complex.
White said she called the Target 8 Investigative team to get to the bottom of why her landlord neither repaired her apartment complex nor paid her hospital bills.
According to multiple tenants at the Shelbina Apartments, construction began sometime in early May and was not near complete three months later.
"I can't park out in front because the parking lot's all torn up. There are open trenches. All the sidwalks are ripped out. It's a mess," White said.
White said she and her neighbors live in an open construction zone against their will, and they pay the price.
"It's very dangerous. People have fell. I know four for a fact that have fallen, me included," said White, who ended up with a pricey emergency room bill after her incident.
Tenants said despite multiple calls, their landlord never offered recompense or acknowledged their strife.
White recounted her own experience looking for answers from her landlord. "I alerted her. I called her on her personal phone. I couldn't get an answer. Her voicemail was full. I called the office phone and left a message even though it was the weekend. My daughter also texted her on her personal phone. I called the main office. No one's ever called me back, and I fell July 6."
Target 8 tried to reach the landlord by making multiple calls and leaving voicemails. When these went unanswered, Target 8 contacted a lawyer for perspective.
Attorney Hal Gibbs said he often deals with landlord/tenant legal issues.
"If you are leasing a space it is deemed to be habitable, which is a term under the law, and so as a matter of being habitable it should be safe and clean without any hazard or danger," said Gibbs. He called the law as it relates to this specific situation, "pretty common sense."
"Just because you are renting doesn't mean you don't have any rights," said Gibbs. He said the landlord is typically responsible for keeping common areas, such as walkways, sidewalks and parking lots "habitable."
"If you can't get it worked out with the landlord, then really your only recourse is to file a lawsuit against the landlord for breach of the lease," Gibbs said.
White and a few neighbors explained they were worried if they were to go over the landlord's head, they would be left with no place to go. Most are low income, relying on government assistance, and many are disabled.
"A lot of us are afraid to complain too much because a lot of these people don't have a lot of family that can back them up if they're asked to move," said White.
Target 8 called the city of Shelbina in hopes an inspector might have some answers. An official said the city does not have specific codes for apartment complexes and maintenance. In other cities, like Columbia, for example, there are typically easy to find landlord and tenant resources, including specfied codes and inspector information.