All last winter, before going to bed, Tanya Wade bundled up in a hat, coat and gloves.
Its heat does not work. And the sliding glass door to her apartment’s bedroom doesn’t close completely. So when temperatures drop below freezing, it’s hard to stay warm.
Wade said she made numerous maintenance requests at her Newport News apartment — for this issue and others — but the issues were never resolved.
“This whole building is a mess,” she said, adding that she moved out of her original apartment on a lower level after it was infested with mice and cockroaches last August.
Several organizations shared similar stories with a House of Delegates subcommittee in February as they advocated for a bill that would give localities the power to sue negligent landlords over matters endangering tenants’ health. . The bill has since been passed by the General Assembly and is awaiting action from Governor Glenn Youngkin, who has until Monday to sign it into law.
Of the. Cia Price, who introduced the bill, said she worked on the measure after hearing from constituents who couldn’t get landlords to address a range of issues including mold, leaks, infestations of rodents and heat or broken air conditioning.
“It’s really heartbreaking because when I walked into their apartments and met them, a lot of the kids that live in those apartments have respiratory issues,” she said. “…I don’t know if it was caused by their environment, but it’s definitely exacerbated by their environment.”
But the Newport News Democrat said localities had limited options when it came to taking action against landlords; they can either impose fines or condemn the buildings.
Fines aren’t always effective because they can often be less expensive than large-scale improvements, Price said. And condemning buildings can exacerbate problems of housing shortages or homelessness.
“This bill would allow them to sue to get things fixed, not just fine or condemn the apartment,” she said.
The bill has been endorsed by several groups, including the City of Newport News, the Virginia Poverty Law Center and the Virginia Apartment and Management Association, which represents more than 230,000 rental units across the state.
“We’ve seen in Richmond, Newport News and other parts of the state large apartment complexes that have issues like mold, cockroach infestation, etc. that go unresolved for ages. months or sometimes years,” Christine Marra, director of housing advocacy for the VPLC, told the House subcommittee in February.
“If (this bill) becomes law, localities could take greater steps to help tenants and ensure members of their communities live in safe and healthy environments.”
Wade, who suffers from congestive heart failure, fears that his living conditions will harm his health.
His doctor wrote a note saying it was crucial that repairs be made, Wade said, but nothing changed after he shared it with management. The apartment complex did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Wade said she was worried about the building’s older residents or people with disabilities. She said the elevators – one of which was not working on Thursday – regularly break down, which is difficult in a multi-storey building.
“I try to be a voice for anyone who may be afraid to say things,” she said. “…You shouldn’t treat someone like that.”
Katie King, [email protected]