Tenants at a WL apartment complex say they're living in unsafe conditions

WLFI spoke with two of them and they showed us damage they said is impacting their health.

Posted: Oct 14, 2021 6:33 PM
Updated: Oct 14, 2021 7:47 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Tenants at a West Lafayette apartment complex say they're living in unsafe conditions. WLFI spoke with two of them and they showed us damage they said is impacting their health.

One of the problems? A single apartment complex has more than four dozen owners.

"When I moved in, it had an odor," said tenant Sharifah Thomas.

Thomas thought she was smelling pet odor from former tenants when she moved into her unit at Waterfront Apartments in West Lafayette about two years ago.

"I didn't see any black mold at the time, but they paint over it to cover it up," said Thomas.

However, it wasn't long before she found mold and reported it to her landlord.

"They came out and all they did was paint over it," Thomas explained.

Thomas said her washing machine was also leaking, and her dryer and dishwasher weren't working properly. She said despite telling management, things continued to get worse, even after she got the Department of Child Services involved.

"Me and the DCS lady went over there together and asked him politely, 'Hey, is there a way you can put her into another apartment until you fix what's wrong with hers?" said Thomas.

Thomas said her health and her three childrens' are deteriorating and now she uses oxygen to help her breathe at night.

"We're coughing," she said. "We constantly have headaches, congestion. So, it's not healthy."

Jaleel Jones is in a similar situation.

He, his brother, and cousin moved into a unit in the same building in August. Jones said his initial unit had to be changed.

"They never showed us the place or anything like that," said Jones. "They just told us to have everything paid by August 13 and be ready to move in."

He noticed problems immediately.

"The mold was terrible, first of all, and the floors were caving in pretty bad," Jones explained.

Jones' unit is owned by a different landlord, and he said despite cleaning and complaints, the mold keeps coming back.

"They didn't do anything about the mold or anything like that. They said they couldn't," said Jones. "They said everybody reports on that. So, they can't really help us with that."

It's the same situation with his floors.

"They said if they fix it once, it would happen again," said Jones. "So, there would be no point in fixing it."

Jones said his cousin is starting to have health problems.

"Throat problems, coughing real bad," he explained. "He lost his voice."

West Lafayette Building Commissioner Chad Spitznagle said the complex passed its four-year inspection in late 2020. He said things can get tricky when it comes to dealing with tenants and landlords.

Spitznagle said due to a state law passed last year, the city can't be involved in any aspect of the landlord-tenant relationship.

"We have to walk that fine line on, 'Are we getting ourselves in trouble with the Indiana code on getting involved in a contract," said Spitznagle.

He said one of the problems could be that the complex has multiple landlords.

"With 57 owners down there, it can be difficult to get a hold of multiple people and management teams to make corrections because one unit could be affecting another," said Spitznagle.

Thomas said the state department of health was able to do an air quality test. According to the results from her landlord, Gary Lane, there was not an issue with mold.

However, there was high humidity levels noted and stains on the ceiling. It encouraged the building owner to inspect the upstairs apartment for leaks.

Thomas said she tried to leave, but couldn't find an affordable apartment in her children's school district.

"Here I am," Thomas said. "I'm still here. I had nowhere else to go. So, I had to re-sign a lease."

Jones is locked into a contract as well until next August. He said he's hoping something can be done soon.

"They have to do something about this, said Jones. "We've talked to multiple people out here. It's terrible, and they haven't done nothing."

But even if that happens... 

"I promise we won't be leasing again here," Jones added. "Definitely not."

Thomas' landlord, Gary Lane, refused an on-camera interview with WLFI, however, he said he wasn't told about the issues.

Thomas sent an email Thursday asking maintenance once again to fix the problems.

We reached out to B and K Management for comment about Jones' apartment. They have not returned our call.

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