Couple's dispute with apartment complex goes to court - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Couple's dispute with apartment complex goes to court

(Source: WAFF) (Source: WAFF)
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

A Huntsville couple feels caught in the middle, and they say their apartment complex is pointing the finger at Huntsville Utilities and Huntsville Utilities is
pointing it right back over their extremely high utility bills month after month.
 
However, they are stuck with extremely high bills and no answers.

"With 300-400 utility bills, 500-600 utility bills with only two people in the house and we're gone almost 9 hours of the day," said Willie Watkins.
 
Nothing is adding up for Watkins but what does add up are the problems they've had with apartment management at Pine Hurst Apartments on Pulaski
Pike in Huntsville starting with a busted, leaking water heater.

"This is one of the main problems causing our utility bills to go extremely high. They changed the hot water heater out, they said they put a brand new one in. Of course, you see it's not a brand new one," added Watkins.
 
And they say it gets worse with a leaking shower head and a running toilet.

"We had waste come up from the commode, the sink, the bathtub and it came all the way out to the carpet. We had a door that's been messed up, they've never come and fixed the door," said Watkins.

They say they've had all those issues in only two years they've lived here and in those two years, they say the apartment complex has changed management four or five times and claim their requests for repairs go ignored.

Huntsville Utilities did send a team to inspect and found no issues on their end.
 
The current manager at Pinehurst Apartments did not want to comment on the repair issues since the matter is already in the court system.
 
Pinehurst has now filed to evict the couple over a late rental payment.

Watkins said they've been consistent on their rent but have gotten so frustrated with the lack of help from the apartment complex, they're withholding September's payment until their repair issues are resolved.
 
"It feels like the only ammunition you have. That balance of power is so off kilter between a landlord and a tenant and it feels like the one thing you can do is say well I'm not going to pay you if you don't fix this, fix this and I'll pay. Yet, Alabama law says it's the only thing you can't do," said Holly Ray, Attorney for Legal Services of Alabama.

Ray represents tenants in landlord disputes for legal services and by far, repair issues are the most common calls she gets. She couldn't comment directly about this case but offers some perspective.

"Our clients are obviously primarily low-income tenants when we see a water leak that leads to a $400 utility bill, in some cases that's as much or more than their rent and so they have to make impossible decisions and they pick the water," said Ray.

Ray's advice starts with reading your lease from cover to cover. If things continue to sour between you and your landlord start keeping records.
 
"If you have a copy of the work orders that you provided the landlord, a copy of emails that you sent, if you
have phone records where you can pull up in your phone where you've called them 5 or 6 times about this issue, all of that can be used as leverage to try and resolve the case," added Ray.
 
The one card you can play as a tenant if a repair issue gets so bad you'd rather leave; Alabama law does allow that with two weeks notice in writing.
 
If they don't make repairs to make your home livable, then you can break your lease and move.
 
The downside for many people, like this couple, is finding the extra money it will take to pick up and move in such a short window.
 
Click here for Alabama's Tenant Handbook for more information.

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