The Smoke That Was Ignored
Back in March, No More Slumlords sat down to talk with Fresno resident Maria Nava who has lived in an apartment owned by JD Home Rentals for 11 and a half years. She lives with her one-year-old granddaughter. Since moving into the unit, she reports having battled with the property owner over numerous maintenance issues.
She begged them for years to replace the carpet in her unit, which she described as “destroyed,” but all they would do is change small pieces of the carpet at a time. After 10 years, they finally replaced it.
Nava has also dealt with a leaking roof and windows in the bedroom. She has even lost furniture which becomes so damp and moldy that it had to be thrown out.
Nava said that the times when the property owner has actually listened to her pleas for help, they send “anybody from the street to do the work” who will do small changes to temporarily fix the issue, but the problems always continue.
On one occasion, the light above the outdoor staircase leading up to her second-story unit stopped working. With the staircase very dark and extremely hazardous, she called to request that they fix the light. Workers had been leaving old wood and construction materials piled up on the side of the staircase landing. Every time she had to use the stairs after dark, she feared that she would trip over the materials and injure herself. Nava called every day to complain about the hazard, but it still took two weeks for JD Home Rentals to fix the problem.
One day, some workers were on site doing some modifications on the building and she opened her apartment door and was overcome by the smell of something burning. Her eyes immediately began watering. She suspected that an electrical wire above the ceiling in the staircase landing had been accidentally moved by the workers. She immediately called over one of them to point out the smell to him, but he told her not to worry, saying that nothing was burning and it was simply the fresh paint she was smelling. Frustrated, she returned back inside her apartment to tend to her granddaughter.
Two more times that afternoon, she went through the same charade, opening the door to find a lingering burning smell, calling the workers over, and getting brushed off by them, who claimed nothing was wrong. Not once did she see them check to verify that nothing had gone wrong with the electrical wiring.
That night at around 11:30, Nava woke up coughing, feeling something in her throat, and recognized the familiar burning smell from that afternoon. She jolted awake, realizing that her apartment was filled with smoke, and grabbed her granddaughter and ran outside. Although she never saw any flames, her eyes and throat continued to sting from the smell and smoke. An ambulance and paramedic arrived on site to tend to her and her granddaughter. Since she was not allowed to return inside her unit for any belongings, the Red Cross provided her with a hotel voucher and a small amount of gift cards to purchases clothes and personal items. She spent two days in a hotel and four days staying with a nephew.
Nava was told by JD Home Rentals that they couldn’t be held responsible for any of her belongings because she should have had renter’s insurance. Nava responded that this was not something provoked by her, nor did it even happen in her apartment. Rather, it was an issue caused by the workers and they should be held responsible for causing the problem.
We recently spoke to Nava in July to get a current update on her situation. She moved into a new JD Home Rentals’ apartment but she said that she is experiencing some unresolved maintenance issues there. She is frustrated that the carpet stairway leading into her apartment was never replaced when they moved in. According to her the carpet is moldy and extremely dirty. Her granddaughter had an allergic reaction after playing on the carpet. She has asked JD Home Rentals to let her into her old apartment to see if she can salvage any of her belongings, but JD Home Rentals has refused.
Nava eventually got the report of what caused the fire from the Fresno Fire Department. She said that it states that the fire was caused due to negligence on part of JD Home Rentals.
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This apartment complex is located in Council Member Oliver L. Baines’ district. Share this story with Council Member Baines and ask him to support a routine inspection program.