Thursday, May 12 2022

A tenant at the same resort contacted 11Alive about similar conditions.

DECATUR, Ga. — Leaking ceilings, bullet holes in the walls, no hot water.

These are the conditions of the tenants, at the Orchard Walk Apartments in DeKalb County, said they had to live under. Neighbors contacted 11Alive and said their issues were not resolved in a timely manner and felt stuck.

Monique Norris has lived in the Orchard Walk apartments on Flat Shoals Road in Decatur since November 2020, but since moving in during the pandemic, she hasn’t moved in before signing her lease.

“When I walked in I was like ‘Oh my God what have I done? Where have I moved to?’ “, she said.

Norris said conditions were dire when he arrived at the apartment complex. In the past two years, she has even asked for the same repairs to be redone.

“We had the ceiling leaking (and) we had a hole in the bathtub leaking,” she said. “I shouldn’t go five months without hot water. I have 50, 60 work orders for the same problems.”

Norris has a file of work orders some of which date back to 2020. She also pointed to a hole in the ceiling that was being patched again, with tools just left on the floor after the workers left.

“It’s just not a safe environment to raise kids,” Norris said.

The mother said they had to move for three months last March when the ceiling in the unit collapsed, and just after his family returned, a drive-by shooting grazed his son’s arm and left bullet holes in the walls.

She quickly asked the resort to fix the holes and received a bill right after.

“They tried to charge me $500, $600 to fix this,” Norris said. “No man, I’m not paying for this.”

11Alive contacted Atlanta Legal Aid lawyer, Mara Block, who said tenants need to do certain things to protect themselves.

Never rent on sight

Block insisted on verifying the property before signing to live there.

“Play with the thermostat, make sure the HVAC is working, turn on the tub, make sure it’s clear and hot water is coming out,” Block said.

Search for keywords in the contract

Read the entire contract to make sure there are no stipulations making normal repair issues the renter’s responsibility.

Important things to look for are fees, tenant liability clauses, repairs, and response times.

Document issues

If there are any problems, take photos and videos. It is helpful to document all communications in writing with a date and keep a record if necessary.

Contact Code Enforcement

If issues are not resolved in a timely manner, escalate issues by contacting Code Enforcement.

“Code enforcement has the ability to send in police officers and if there is a violation they can fine the owner,” Block said.

And finally, if nothing else works, contact a lawyer.

Norris said that’s the only step she hasn’t taken yet.

“I would like to get out of my lease at this point,” she said. “Without paying a penalty, they should actually owe me.”

Block said that even when hiring a lawyer, it’s important to continue paying rent, even if there are issues with the property. Although it may seem unfair, if a tenant ends up in court, non-payment of rent is a quick way to be evicted.

11Alive contacted Orchard Walk and its parent company, but they did not return calls.

Atlanta Legal Aid operates in five counties in the Atlanta metro area, click here for more information and resources.

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