Tenant turns to 8News for help with problem property with a history

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Richmond woman struggling with deplorable living conditions recently turned to 8News for help.

8News Investigative Reporter Kerri O’Brien stepped in and has uncovered a history of problems with the property.

Crystal Brown pays her rent on time every month, but inside her home, she fears for her safety and that of her family.

And what Brown didn’t know is just before she moved in, the house was deemed unsafe.

“We had to tie this shoe string here so we can open up our door,” Brown told 8News.

The door has no knob. Several windows in the room are held in with nails and chains.

“They put this here so the windows don’t come out,” Brown said.

And the home has no heat.

“This is my main source of heat,” Brown said referencing the oven she uses to heat her home overnight.

Brown has been renting this house in the McGuire section of Richmond since February but she’s fed up with the condition of the home.

There are holes, leaks and a sinking floor in the bathroom, and in another room, the sheetrock is damaged, exposing rotting wood and what Brown fears is mold.

“We have this horrible smell, we have this…” she said, referencing her cough.

Brown said she complained to her landlord and property manager but gets no help.

“I shouldn’t have to live like this,” she said.

Another former tenant and the neighborhood’s civic association say it’s a problem property.

8News spoke with Lakeesha Haskins, the Vice President of the McGuire Civic Association.

“It’s been a problem for many, many years,” Haskins said.

8News did some checking and the city said that the owner of the property, Joseph Arena was cited for violations back in July of 2016. Additionally, 8News found that in October of last year, a violation notice was placed on the home declaring it “unsafe.”

Code enforcement officials say the owner obtained a building permit to make repairs, yet, only after a call from 8News did the city learn the permit was pulled.

“Our inspector was duped by the owner, who on October 30 killed the permit and requested a refund,” Code Enforcement officials told 8News.

8News spoke with the Arena at length and he insists repairs were made before renting the home to Brown, and he claims city inspectors would not return his calls to check on the work.

But just a day after 8News contacted the city with Brown’s concerns, an inspector returned to the home and found six critical violations.

All violations must now be fixed by Nov. 17 or the owner faces a $2,500 fine per day per violation. Arena said he will fix it all immediately.

Now, readers may be wondering why the city inspector did not follow up on the building permit and actually check to see if repairs had been made.

The inspector said he tried stopping at the home and calling the owner several times.

He claims the homeowner did not return his calls.

And the previous tenant moved out so the inspector assumed everything was o.k.

Stay with 8News as we follow up in the coming weeks to see if the homeowner fixes the violations.

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