On Tuesday, July 7th, a group of tenants renting space in an apartment building at 1002 W 5th Street were told by the Grant County Health Department that their home was “not structurally sound,” as well as “uninhabitable,” and the tenants were only given until July 10th to move out. The Building Inspector also said the location was not kept up to code.
According to the tenants, the basement has standing water that smells like sewage, which attracted flies. The property is unsanitary, especially considering the fact that children are living in these conditions.
One of the tenants, Donna Pruiett, told our own Richarh Tyson on Wednesday that, “when you plug something into the wall, the breakers pop. You go downstairs, you have to turn the breaker back on, and there’s been water standing in that basement, almost halfway up your calf, and it’s a wonder we ain’t been electrocuted.”
Shirley Bragg told Richarh, “my ceiling is falling in, cracked walls, foundation’s wrong, it’s falling apart. We have no place to go.”
Another tenant, Donna O’Hara, explained to Richarh how difficult the situation has been, financially, emotionally, and logistically. “It’s been through hell to even get us to this point. Everything we had in this was a huge blessing to us. And now, within, what? Two days at this time, we have to leave, and even with income, I have no idea what our family’s about to do, like, where we’re about to go, who to turn to. I’m pretty much clueless and scared at this point.”
Joanie Ventress said the health department told them they would help the tenants find a place to go, but then appeared to change their stance the next day by just saying the tenants had to go and that they couldn’t help them. Joanie also explained “we looked in the newspaper, we’ve called the Red Cross, looking for just any type of assistance that we can get, and we always get turned down. We only have two days left before we have to get out, and, again, our families have nowhere to go, and we have no resources, no help whatsoever.”
The apartment building these tenants are being forced to evacuate is owned by Russell Humphries, whom the tenants believe is responsible for not keeping the building up to date and livable, and ultimately responsible for them being thrown out in such a hasty fashion.
On Thursday, just a day after speaking with the tenants, Richarh was able to speak with Russell Humphries, to get his side of the situation.
Humphries told Richarh, “I just want to try to get these resolved… If I have problems with the renters, I just gave Richarh my phone number, and they can call me, and we can see if we can’t resolve these quickly. If nobody calls me, I don’t know.”
He continue by saying that, at this specific property, “we had secured a $40,000 loan to fix that up, but with the virus and everything, everything’s put on hold, so that’s where we’re at on that… I haven’t heard anything from the building inspector that it’s not sound. Well, we’ll work with him, and he seems like a very fair guy, and we’ll see if we can’t make adjustments and make it sound.”
Humphries also used his interview with Richarh to send a message to his tenants.
Any of you renters that have a problem with one of my properties, you should call me, and we’ll get it resolved. I don’t want problems with renters. I want to keep a good rapport with them. I don’t run ads, because the renters send me so many other renters that I don’t have to, I haven’t for years… Any of our renters, they’re not under a lease. They can leave any time. It’s a 30-day deal. If they’re not happy, they can always leave.
A lot of times, they don’t pay, and they don’t tell you about the problems, and then they use that against you… We’ve still got to fix it, whether they pay or not. It’s frustrating they’re not paying, but it’s our job to make sure that they live in a safe and clean environment, and that’s what I’m shooting for.
Despite what Humphries told Richarh, it’s not clear what, if anything, will be done before the move-out date set for his tenants on Friday, July 10th, or whether or not they will have to leave the property on that day.
We will continue watching this story and bring you updates as they become available.