Target 8: Mother Calls Rental Home in Dispute "a Dump"
COLUMBIA - A Columbia mother says she is desperate to get her family of six out of a moldy, bug-filled, two-bedroom trailer that is not legally rentable. The woman and the complex manager are in a dispute over who is responsible.
"We've been living like this since February and it's really getting to me," Wendy Dey said of her trailer at Tube's Wheel Ranch. "And I feel bad for the kids 'cause they shouldn't have to live like this."
"Those kids put the holes in the walls and broke the windows," said Michelle Jesse, the manager of Tube's Wheel Ranch. "Those were not there before they moved in."
Dey lives in the two-bedroom trailer with her husband and four children. That is too many people for such a small space, according to Missouri statute Section 441.060.
The law requires at least one bedroom for every two tenants, not including those born during the lease. The smallest trailer a family of six can legally live is in a three-bedroom.
Jesse did not want to speak on camera, but, when asked, said she did not know if it was legal for the Dey family to live in the two-bedroom trailer.
Dey's rental lease says no more than two adults and two children can live there.
When asked about this discrepancy, Jesse said the lease was written when she first started working back in March. She said the park has standardized leases and she just copied another lease and changed the name and lot number. She said she must have forgotten to change the number of tenants.
Dey said she took the trailer sight-unseen, even though it was too small, because she was in an emergency situation.
Her family was living in a hotel, Dey said, with little money, and not a lot of options. She said Jesse told her a three-bedroom would soon be available.
Jesse told KOMU 8 News the three-bedroom took much longer to fix up than she originally thought.
"That place was trashed," Jesse said about the former resident of the three-bedroom. "The woman's kids hung on the cabinets and wiped their dirty diapers into the carpet so we put in new carpet and are working on getting it fixed."
Dey said Jesse has been promising the larger trailer for months. Jesse said she just needs a few more weeks and she is trying to help everyone out and keep the park clean.
KOMU 8 News went to Dey's current trailer to see what condition the home was in. Spiders, flies, ants and mice infested the house. Black mold and stains marked the walls. Gaping holes left insulation and electrical sockets hanging. Electricity in half the house doesn't work.
Such conditions would violate code, according to Leigh Britt, the manager from the Office of Neighborhood Services.
Jesse said that all trailers have to pass a health inspection before they are rented out. When asked if Dey's trailer passed, she said she didn't know because she had never been inside the home.
Britt said, "In this particular instance, we need to investigate and get our inspectors in and document what the issues might be."
The office would also need to look into property's registration, Britt said, because it is not listed as rental property.
"All rental properties have to be registered with the city," Britt said, "it has to be inspected, and then receive a certificate of compliance."
In response to the Target 8 investigation, Britt said Neighborhood Services will begin its own investigation, and work to fix the situation for those involved.
A tearful Dey said all she wants is a safe place for her children to live and play.
"When I was little, I didn't have to live like this. I always had a nice bedroom with toys," Dey said. "They shouldn't have to live like this. It breaks my heart."