Rental problems: Steps you can take as a tenant

Posted at 10:45 AM, Jun 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-01 17:29:27-04

Residents in an Oildale apartment complex contacted 23 ABC asking for help, to get their homes fixed.

There was a laundry list of problems, no smoke alarms, no carbon monoxide detector, exposed wires, leaky water pipes (causing mold), a smashed-in wall, bed bugs, soot in a wall heater, and no gas hooked up to the stove top. All of these problems pertained to two families.

Jennifer Hunt moved in September of 2015, she says there were never smoke detectors in the apartment, and found no fire extinguisher on the premises. She said the back bedroom wall was smashed in by a neighbor October 14th and it was not fixed May 30th when 23ABC went to see the apartment. Hunt said she found bed bugs a couple days later in that room and had to throw out her furniture.

Hunt said she is also stressed, taking 24-hour care of her ailing husband, who visits a hospital in Los Angeles every week to treat graph versus host disease, after his bone marrow transplant in 2004 rejected.

Hunt also said she smelled gas last week and called the gas company out to test the air. She said they shut off the gas, because of a leak from the stove in the kitchen. 23ABC reached out to SoCal Gas for a comment, they said they could not release any information as it is confidential.

23ABC contacted the landlord, Juan Ruiz, who is also the Principal of Avenal High School and bought the property in 2008. There have been no complaints filed with code enforcement since he has owned the building and he said he did not know about the problems Hunt was facing.

After reaching out to Ruiz, he installed smoke alarms and a carbon monoxide detector Tuesday. He said he would continue to fix the broken wall and said Hunt needed to fix the stove, as it is her property.

Jason Gamble, who takes care of his three children, ages 6, 8 and 10, says the bathtub knob leaks, shooting water into the tub, and says this has been a problem for more than six months. Gamble says he uses pliers to work the knobs in the bathroom, and has to supervise his children to keep them safe.

"It's really tough to get the, to switch the bath to shower and shower to bath because you have to use the pliers," his 10-year-old said. 

Gamble added there are water leaks in the walls, causing mold that you can see on his back wall. Walking around his home you can see there are no smoke alarms and various exposed wires.

"That is for my doorbell," he said pointing to a tangle of wires above his doorway into the kitchen.

Ruiz said he reached out to Gamble after talking with 23ABC and said he could not contact him. Ruiz said he did not know of any problems in his unit.

When it comes to getting your apartment fixed. Talk first with your landlord. If he or she does not respond in a timely manner, write down the problems you are dealing with and send it to the landlord by certified mail.

Using certified mail is important because that document can be used in a court of law. Code enforcement said give your landlord 10 working days to respond to your complaint and if there is still no response, you then can call code enforcement at 862-8603.