Family Battles Landlord Over Condition of Apartment

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

April 25, 2006

A family of 5 is still battling their landlord over the condition of their apartment after it was struck my lightening. They say their apartment is unlivable, but they still live there because no one from the apartment complex has come to confirm whether their conditions are indeed livable or not.

Jackie Stevenson's apartment at the Greens at Hollymead was struck by lightening 11 days ago. Fire crews had to knock down two of her walls in order to put out the flames. Stevenson said it's been almost two weeks now and she is still living with holes in the walls, exposed wires and no washer and dryer.

Early Tuesday morning an Albemarle County building inspector came to Stevenson's apartment to see the fire damage. He was not allowed to tell Stevenson if her apartment is even livable.

Frustrated that it's been days and no one from the apartment complex has come out to fix the problems, she turned to Attorney Tim Kelsey for advice.

"The ultimate goal is to get her to feel whole again. She has been damaged and there is a chance that part of that damage is the responsibility of the landlord," said Tim Kelsey of Boyle, Bain, Reback & Slayton in Charlottesville.

Right now it's unclear whether damage caused by a natural disaster such as lightening is covered by the leasing agent or the tenant. That depends on what's in the lease agreement. Stevenson said she should at least be compensated for how long she has had to wait.

"I would like for [the landlord] to take care of just the basic repairs. If I could just have walls, that would be great. [I would like to] get my washer and dryer back; that would be a wonderful accomplishment," said Stevenson.

She said she won't feel comfortable living there until everything is fixed and the possible danger is gone.

"I should feel safe, and I don't know that I can," said Stevenson.

The landlord told Stevenson the Greens at Hollymead will prorate her rent for this month and that the damage should be fixed soon. The landlord also agreed to let Stevenson out of her lease if she wanted to move.

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