Michiana Problem Solver: Roof leak causes hazardous conditions

CASS COUNTY, Mich. -- ABC57's Michiana Problem Solver Kevin Warmhold is helping one Howard Township family whose property manager and property owner have ignored an apartment's leaking roof that has caused damage and mold to develop for over three years. Now, management is attempting to evict the residents.

“It leaks in the living room, it leaks in one of the bedrooms, it leaks in the bathroom. Then, we had flooding in the front entry way,” say's Felicia Albert.

Birch Realty owns Marlin Village, which is located in Howard Township, Michigan. They own and manage properties in ten states, according to their website.  

The Albert family is upset at property management, because they have failed to make necessary, long-term construction updates to their apartment. Instead they have used cheap, ineffective means to fix the apartment's leaking issue.

“They just put a tarp on the roof, and they keep putting tarps on the roof every time the wind comes through," said Felicia.

Felicia Albert and her husband Thomas have lived in their apartment at Marlin Village for the past nine years.

The Alberts say they have always paid their rent on time and have been exceptional tenants. Now, they believe they are being targeted with the threat of an eviction notice because of their constant requests for roof repairs.

“In my understanding of Michigan State law, that’s called retaliation eviction, and it says right there in the law. It says I can not be retaliated on because I am asking for my rights by law to be met," says Thomas.

The leak, which started in 2019, has now led to water damage and even mold growth throughout the apartment.

Mold covers the ceiling of the bathroom, which is in the same location as the leak from the ruptured roof.

Felicia is fearful of the ceiling collapsing on her because of how much water has leaked over the past three years. 

The problem in the bathroom has caused her some unnecessary stress. Felicia is also battling a medical condition, Hidradenitis Suppurativa, which gets worst with stress.

The leaking has also spawned water marks on her walls, ceiling, and water damage at the front doorway.

Felicia and Thomas started pleading their case in 2019 to the on-site property manager, Kim Magner, who also happens to be Felicia's mother.

“We sent an email to the manager of the park. We did not get anywhere with her, and then she said we need to make Birch Realty aware, the owners of the park," says Felicia.

They then emailed Michele Westmorland of Birch Realty Group. Michele lives in Florida and has not seen the property herself.

ABC57 emailed Michele with a list of questions, attempting to get a better understanding of what was going on. Michele informed ABC57 that they attempted to fix the problem, but, because of backlogs and supply chain issues, the job could not get done.

The property manager, Felicia's mother, claimed that she submitted five bids to the property owner that detailed the cost to fix the roof.

However, when ABC57 asked her for those bid submissions, she declined to share any documentation.

In the face of an eviction notice, which the Alberts believe is unlawful, the family filed an official complaint to their local health department to bring official attention to the condition of the property.

ABC57 reached out to the health department's director for an interview concerning the Albert family's dilemma. Although the director was unavailable for a full interview, he assured in a phone call with ABC57 that the problem was being taken seriously and that an investigation was underway.

The health department has since forwarded the Albert family's complaint to the area's buildings department to continue the investigation into their apartment's condition.

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