Tenant alleging she was evicted for notifying South Bend Code Enforcement

Are you having problems finding a suitable apartment or home to rent due to bad credit or a limited income?

Many people often turn to rental management companies for help. But are these companies delivering on their promises?

Erica Young used a rental management company from Granger to help find a home back in November of 2022. But what the mother of two wasn’t expecting was the list of problems that came with it, prompting her to ask ABC57 News for help.

Flooding, raw sewage, and mold were all conditions that caused her home on Swygart Avenue in South Bend to be condemned.

Young moved into the house on October 16, 2022 and immediately reported plumbing issues and clogged drains.

By December 15th, the magnitude of her troubles escalated.

“My son was screaming he was like, 'mom, mom, the house, the backroom's flooding. There is water coming up. Water everywhere.'”

Raw sewage began to back up into Young's house through a drain.

She notified MBSR Rentals to fix the problem, but weeks went by with no resolution.

Young says the lack of response lead to mold. She requested a mold inspector multiple times. Then, her son started having raspatory problems.

“We then went to the urgent care," Young said. "And that's when they say that that my son was wheezing really bad, that his respiratory levels were kind of low, and that he needed inhaler breathing help to enhance his breathing at the time. And so, I then reached out to the health department, because I told them, I said, 'there’s mold in my home.'”

Once Young alerted the health department, code enforcement inspected the home and condemned it.

After the carpeting was removed and new flooring was installed, the property passed inspection and Young was allowed to move back in.

But she said one problem remained: the mold.

Young says she emailed MBSR Rentals several times, complaining about the mold. She says those complaints lead to the termination of her lease.

“I was told to, pretty much sent a notice to vacate, a 30-day notice to vacate by May 10 of 2023," Young said. "And that was just from me reaching out and stating, 'hey, there's been really bad communication. Like I just need to know what's going on, if the mold is going to be fixed.'”

ABC57 visited MBSR’s office to get some answers.

Staff told ABC57's Kevin Warmhold that Young was removed for being a “troubled tenant.”

Just days after her eviction, we found the home available on MBSR’s website. It is unclear if the mold issue was ever addressed.

Young feels she was retaliated against for making an official complaint. She's now homeless and staying with friends and family.

I told Young about the free legal help available that can look into her situation.

Nell Collins is a lawyer who works for one of those services, the Volunteer Lawyer Network, also known as Pro Bono Indiana.

“It's really difficult to be a tenant facing something like this. It's scary, it's overwhelming. And the timeline for evictions tend to be really quick. So, the most important thing that they can do is reach out to legal help as soon as possible,” Nell Collins said.

She also says it is important for tenants to understand their rights so they can protect themselves when facing eviction.

Like the right to have a habitable and clean home.

“Landlords have to convey the property to tenants, the unit, whatever tenant unit they're renting, in a habitable clean condition. That means that it has to be up to code.”

Another important question is: can you withhold rent to address a problem?

“If there's an issue with damage to the unit, or if there's a problem with the unit, they don't have the right to withhold rent. This is one of the most important things that I can convey about Indiana law actually, is that tenants don't have the right. They do have the right, though, to go to small claims court and go after the landlord to get that fixed if they're if the landlord's not responding.”

A landlord cannot, however, end a lease out of nowhere.

“You can't just terminate a lease, they have to have good cause to terminate a lease in the state of Indiana, they can't just break it off.”

Nell says if this happens, get a lawyer or reach out to Pro Bono Indiana for help.

Right now, most evictions are public records and can have an effect on the tenant looking for another place to live.

But there is a new state law aimed at protecting tenants.

“There is a new Indiana law that was passed and that was took effect last summer that some evictions can be sealed. What that means is that they can actually be prevented from public views. That, if a potential landlord were to go and look for these evictions, they wouldn't be able to see it.”

Young contacted the free legal services and found a lawyer. She now plans on fighting her eviction.

If you are facing a questionable eviction, Collins recommends using their free resources as soon as possible.

Pro Bono Indiana has free consultations by Zoom available monthly and resources available online here.

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