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Holding your landlord accountable, and the options available to you

Arborwood at Mann Road Apartments
Posted at 12:53 AM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 01:22:58-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Dangerous mold, broken AC units and no hot water are all issues viewers have shared with WRTV, frustrated that their landlord or apartment management won't fix the problems.

Most recently, we've been looking into complaints at Arborwood at Mann Road Apartments on the southwest side of Indianapolis. Residents have told us that a few fixes have been made, but problems persists.

Johnny Langley and his family are dealing some of those persistent problems. His mother is currently dealing with breathing issues because of mold.

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"To see my mother going through that, it really does hurt and I don't want to see other families and other people to have to see their parents go through that," Langley said. His mother has been to a pulmonologist who confirmed her living space at Arborwood is detrimental to her health. Langley said he and his family have tried to contact the property managers about the issue.

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"If we're paying rent, how come they aren't holding up their end of the bargain to fix the issues we're having? This is something that could have been fixed. It's something that's very serious. Mold is a killer," Langley stressed. "We've had multiple neighbors talk to us about their problems with mold. We have had the health department involved and it's unfortunate that it had to get to that level."

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Every time WRTV does stories like this, the advice we share is to contact your local health department.

Many people do that and tell us they aren't happy with the results. We asked the Marion County Public Health Department about what happens when someone files a complaint about a rental unit. We also asked what actions can be taken if a property group doesn't get the rental units up to code.

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"After that inspection is done and there are violations, the inspector will issue notice to the owner, property manager, anyone who may have some responsibility to that apartment complex or home depending on circumstances and give them time to make the repair," Lara Morgan, team leader for housing and neighborhood for the Marion County Public Health Department said.

Morgan explained that if the repair requested is considered an emergency, the property owner is expected to address it within 24 hour to 72 hours. If it's not an emergency, they're given up to 30 days before another inspection happens. The situation then escalates if repairs haven't been made in the allotted time.

"The case would then, depending on the severity of the violation emergency, would then be filed into environmental court. If it's general maintenance, perhaps they've made some repairs. We might give them a little bit more time," Morgan added.

Environmental Court is where property owners could face fines handed down by a judge up to $2,500 a day for not fixing issues. However, health departments guided by state law can only recommend places with a lot of issues be shut down. That official order to vacate would come from a judge.

The Marion County Health Department said situations like that are extremely rare. Morgan offers this advice for renters with ongoing issues with no fix in sight:

"We always advise them to continue paying their rent, make complaints to our department so we're aware of all the issues going on and can get orders issued for those cases. Then, we often will advise them on contacting other legal agencies available to them."

"Something has to change, people shouldn't be living in these types of conditions," Langley said.

He and his family plan to move from Arborwood in the coming week. They're looking into all their options to address the financial and emotional hardship they say they've faced. They're also sharing their story to prevent another family from dealing with this situation.

"This looks like a good neighborhood. It looks like a great place to live. Once you get in here, it's like that initial welcoming and belonging goes out the window and you're left high and dry," he said.

Indiana Legal Services recommends talking to a lawyer if you're having serious issues with a rental unit. You may be able to break your lease or take your landlord to small claims court for financial damage. They offer services that can help people in similar situations.

Herman and Kittle Property Group, which owns Arborwood, did not get back to WRTV or answer any questions. However, we have been told by residents that some of the maintenance requests are being addressed.

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