INDIANAPOLIS — Many renters in Central Indiana say they’re having problems with their apartments and rental homes such as bed bugs, broken air conditioning units, mold, mice, leaks and other health and safety problems.
But WRTV Investigates has learned you might have to wait if you want a health inspector to come and check it out.
Typically, the Marion County Public Health Department aims to send an inspector that day if it’s an emergency or within three days if it’s a non-emergency.
However, because of COVID-19 concerns, the health department is only doing indoor inspections if it’s considered urgent.
Tina Kimble and her kids needed to move quickly because of mold problems at their last apartment.
Kimble says she paid $1,700 which includes prorated rent, deposit and administrative fees to move into a 3-bedroom at Strawbridge Green apartments.
“I asked them if I could do a walkthrough and they said because of COVID it wasn’t possible,” Kimble said.
Kimble says once inside her apartment, she found mold and water damage throughout her new home, as well as a broken dishwasher and other problems.
"Imagine my horror to move somewhere else and right back into the same problem,” Kimble said.
Kimble said the apartment complex offered to give a refund after she moved out, but she couldn’t afford to move again.
"They put me in a tough spot because I had just given them $1,700 and plus $1,000 for moving fees and movers,” she said. “I can't come up with that kind of money all of a sudden again."
Kimble reached out to WRTV Investigates after she says the health department told her they couldn’t come out to her apartment because of COVID-19 concerns.
"It makes me worried because they’re our last defense,” she said. “They’re the only guys that are going to be able to do anything.”
The Marion County Public Health Department is still taking complaints on the phone, but they are only sending inspectors indoors if it’s urgent.
"The things that we consider emergencies would be lack of utilities, if they have no running water, or electricity, no hot water under some circumstances with children or elderly, raw sewage backing up would be an emergency, and no air conditioning under certain circumstances,” said Lara Morgan, team leader with the Marion County Public Health Department.
The health department emphasizes inspectors are still reviewing complaints as they come in and are resolving non urgent situations over the phone.
“At this point it’s not ideal, but we don’t want to risk anything for the residents or our inspectors,” Morgan said.
They may also be able to do an in-person inspection at a later date.
“We are still going to make every effort to reach out to the individual responsible to fix the problems they have,” Morgan said. “We are speaking with property managers, with maintenance individuals, we are offering the phone number for Legal Aid. That’s another option, but we are still encouraging them to follow all of our normal procedures.”
WRTV Investigates contacted the health department on Kimble’s behalf, and about the same time, her hot water heater went out as well.
The health department did end up sending an inspector to Kimble’s apartment at Strawbridge Green.
The health department cited the landlord, ECG Indianapolis II, with 21 health code violations including mold in several locations, cracks and holes in walls, a mice infestation, and a broken garbage disposal and dishwasher.
"Since they've been ordered to fix it, yeah, it gives me comfort but I'm just gonna wait and see,” Kimble said.
The health department is still doing outdoor inspections including home exteriors and violations for trash.
We reached out to the apartment complex and landlord via email and phone, and they have not yet responded.
They have to fix most of the violations by Sept. 28, and if they don’t, could face fines of up to $2,500.