HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — With temperatures forecast above 90 degrees this week in Central Virginia, residents are speaking out about persisting maintenance issues, particularly problems with central air.
For Sharone Butler, out-of-order air conditioning has been impacting her living situation for nearly two weeks. Butler, a resident at the Pointe at River City apartments in Henrico County, submitted multiple maintenance requests to have the central air in her unit fixed. But she said those requests were marked “completed” without work actually being done.
“I submitted a fourth request,” she said. “That’s when [management] responded. She finally responded to the fourth request, and it was to say, ‘Oh, well, my contractors said they repaired it last night.’ But you just got my request this morning, and I’m telling you that it’s not.”
On Monday, Butler told 8News that the only time a maintenance worker had come to her apartment to address the AC issues was last Friday when a temporary plug-in unit was delivered. But the unit is not powerful enough to cool Butler’s entire apartment.
Last week, the thermostat in her apartment displayed temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s. But even with the plug-in unit, the thermostat displayed temperatures in the upper 70s.
“Ultimately, living under this type of stress, having to keep on dealing with these things, to wake up in the middle of the night and your house temperature’s 93 degrees, all of that — why?” Butler said. “It’s become more than unbearable for me, it really has.”
Problems with central air are not the only issues Butler said have been persisting. She said that there is also water damage on her ceiling, coming from the roof, which was made worse in recent days because of heavy rain.
“I reported water damage when I first moved in. Supposedly, someone came out a few weeks ago to do roof repairs. However, our last rain, two-day shower we had, I have even more water damage in my ceiling,” Butler said. “As of right now, none of the repairs that I requested have been made.”
Butler was one of more than 200 residents whose housing situation was in jeopardy at the Pointe at River City apartments, formerly known as 11 North, due to issues with rent relief payments. She told 8News Monday that she is now secure in her living situation, but efforts to leave because of repeated maintenance problems have been “fruitless.”
She also said that loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic and medical leave have put a strain on her finances and made it difficult to find a new place to leave.
“I cannot financially afford to. I can’t. If I could, I would’ve been gone,” Butler said. “If I’m feeling like this, I can only imagine what other people are feeling like this, and I know for a fact that they did it to me, they’re doing it to somebody else or they have done it to somebody else. So at some point, we do have to start being more vocal about things like this.”
8News reached out to the company that manages the Pointe at River City apartments and is awaiting a response.
“If the air conditioning was supplied by the landlord at move-in, the landlord must keep it in good working order,” Central Virginia Legal Aid Society (CVLAS) Director of Litigation Martin Wegbreit told 8News. “An AC which ‘cools’ to the upper 80s is not in good working order.”
To address maintenance issues that need fixing, Wegbreit said that tenants can utilize the repair and deduct or tenant’s assertion tactics:
What is “repair and deduct”?
Repair and deduct is a new way to get repairs. It became law July 1, 2020. You can give a written notice to the landlord of needed repairs and wait 14 days. Mail your letter by 1st class mail – not an email or text message. In addition, you can use certified mail, return receipt requested, so you will have proof of it being sent and received. Always make a copy for your records of each letter you send. If repairs are not started within the 14 days, you can contract with a licensed contractor or pesticide business to get the needed work done. The cost cannot be more than $1,500, or one month’s rent, whichever is higher. You can deduct the cost of the repairs from the rent by giving the landlord an itemized statement of the work and a receipt for the work. Repair and deduct is not available if you caused the condition, denied access to the premises, or the condition was remedied by landlord prior to tenant’s contract with a third party. You do not have to be current in your rent to use repair and deduct. However, you do have to pay the cost of the repair, which you then can deduct from future rent payments.
What is a “Tenant’s Assertion”?
A Tenant’s Assertion is a lawsuit you file against your landlord because your landlord did not fulfill a duty under the lease or under the law. To use this, you must be current in your rent and stay current. You have five steps to follow.
1) Identify the problem and who is responsible.
2) Get your proof together.
3) Give proper written notice to your landlord.
4) Allow a reasonable chance for your landlord to repair.
5) Take the case to court if necessary.