Expert: Lousy Vegas landlords rely on renter's ignorance - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

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Expert: Lousy Vegas landlords rely on renter's ignorance

Posted: Updated: May 14, 2014 10:11 PM
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

Mold, cockroach infestations and bed bugs - those are just some of the problems renters have called FOX5 about, at their wits' end, looking for help.

In January, Tempest Anderson and her sisters moved into Lake Sahara Apartments. However, she said, the apartment they were placed in was opposite from the model unit they were shown when they signed their 12-month lease.

"We checked off the mold that was in bathroom," Anderson said. "We checked off how the water ran off [and] the bottom part of the tub would leak. The sink was messed up. Almost everything on the list we checked off."

Anderson said workers had to take out a pipe from the kitchen sink because it was covered in mold and rust. She said there was even mold growing in the light fixtures in her sister's bathroom, where there is no ventilation.

"Before I came here, my asthma was under control. I haven't had to use my breathing machine in, I want to say, probably two years," Anderson said. "So, coming out here to basically be on my breathing machine like every hour - it's horrible."

Anderson said it's not just mold that's a problem. She said the water is sometimes turned off for hours, and windows have shattered on windy nights. She said that many times, her landlord tells her it's her responsibility to make the repairs.

"They don't come and fix anything," Anderson said. "You have to call after-hours emergency maintenance for them to actually come out, and they don't even fix it. They just come out to see what you're talking about."

In one case, Anderson said, workers just left a bucket under a leaky pipe where even more mold was growing.

"I want to move, but I'm under a lease that I don't want to break,because I don't want to mess up my [chance] to get another apartment," Anderson said.

Attorney Judd Balmer, who has 20 years of experience in rental law, said it's that fear that lousy landlords want to exploit.

"The landlord relies on the fact that the tenant is less educated, less likely that they'll be able to stick up for themselves," Balmer said.

Balmer said the state's Landlord-Tenant Act requires landlords to maintain waterproofing and weather protection of the roof and exterior walls, including doors and windows. He said the law also requires plumbing facilities to be maintained and in good working order, and units cannot violate housing or health codes, protecting the health and safety of a renter. He said that if any of those criteria aren't met, the tenant can take action.

"If the home is not in a habitable condition, whether it be a house or an apartment, the tenant is require to give a written notice to the landlord, and the landlord has 14 days to cure the problem," Balmer said. "If the landlord does not cure the problem, the tenant can move forward under the Landlord-Tenant Act."

But, Blamer said, withholding rent isn't really an option.

"The rules now require that the tenant deposit the full amount of the rent with the court, pending a ruling on the landlord's attempt to evict the tenant," Balmer said. "So, the tenant can't just withhold the rent."

That hasn't discouraged Alma Bennett-Evans, who lives at Buena Vista Springs. She said there's problems with roaches, malfunctioning air conditioners, inoperative gates and bed bugs.

"Emergency pull cords don't work," Bennett-Evans said. "Carpet needed to be replaced. Painting needed to be replaced."

However, instead of hiring a lawyer, Bennett-Evans has decided to call on elected officials to solve her problems.

"I would not be thrilled if my parents had to live here," said North Las Vegas City Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown, who recently toured the facility, jotting down problems. "These people deserve a safe environment, one that's maintained."

Balmer said that if you're in a situation like Anderson's or Bennett-Evans', document everything, including pictures and video. He said tenants should put their maintenance requests in writing, making sure to include the dates. He also recommended tenants get a professional inspection when they move out.

If tenants can't afford a lawyer, they can represent themselves against the landlord in court, according to Balmer.

FOX5 was asked to leave the property at Lake Sahara Apartments when we sought comment from Anderson's landlord.

Attempts to contact the owner of Buena Vista Springs failed. Gov. Brian Sandoval's office said the owner lives in Florida and has been receiving tax credits for 18 years, and even they are having a hard time tracking him down.

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