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Shreveport residents upset about condition of rental property - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Shreveport residents upset about condition of rental property

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTBS) -

Unlivable -- that's how several renters in Shreveport's Highland neighborhood describe their apartment.

The list of problems is long - from improper electrical wiring, to plumbing issues and leaks, to rotting wood.

Much of the repairs, the residents say, they've paid for themselves with no compensation from their former landlord.

"I'm the one supplying the sheet rock, the mud, having to climb up underneath the house and fix all the water leaks, going upstairs and hooking the neighbor's heater up."

Nick Chappell, his fiance, Angela Reeves, and their neighbors in a quad-plex on Rutherford Street in Shreveport say they weren't given the opportunity to see the apartments before they moved in, and weren't told the building was for sale at the time.

"We looked through the windows. He said he didn't have a key and that the kitchen floor needed to be replaced," says Reeves.

Reeves' next-door neighbor, Loretta McWilliams, whose 25-year-old autistic son needs constant care, says she was without hot water for a month because she claims she couldn't get her landlord, Thomas King, to make repairs.

"I'm the only one he's got to defend him, so that's the only reason I'm making an issue of it, because of my son," McWilliams says.

King, who sold the building at the end of 2013, wouldn't go on camera, but says he was never made aware of any issues.

He says, in the 10 years he owned the apartment, no other tenants ever complained about any of the problems.

The basic, minimum requirements for a building's condition in order to be occupied are spelled out in the Shreveport Property Standards ordinances, which were updated with a Renters Code two years ago.

For instance, the ordinance states all plumbing fixtures shall be maintained in a safe and usable condition.

It also states that all electrical facilities shall be installed and maintained in a safe manner which complies with state and federal codes in effect when the structure was built or substantially remodeled.

Reverend Aaron Dobynes is part of Interfaith Advocacy Group, which has been vocal about the importance of renter's rights in Shreveport.

"Those who own the houses will take advantage of the renters and their ignorance, and perhaps their desperation to just get something versus having nothing," Dobynes says.

He says he understands that tenants don't always uphold their end of the agreement, but their group is concerned with those building owners who don't properly and safely maintain their rental properties.

The new owner, who asked not to be identified, says King let the building fall into disrepair over the last few years.

The new owner did fix the issue with the hot water.

But the only way to do the extensive work, including knocking out walls and re-wiring electricity, is to ask the tenants to leave by terminating their lease, adding that he's willing to refund their deposit.

The city says enforcement of the ordinance depends on them receiving complaints.

Tenants are required to give their landlord a 10-day written notice of the problem before filing an affidavit in person at the Property Standards office.

That's located at 1025 Shreveport-Barksdale Hwy. in Shreveport.

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