A Tampa senior citizen says she dealt with plumbing problems for weeks that her out-of-town landlord failed to fix until the I-team got involved.
The I-Team spoke to her about how this issue disrupted her life and what's being done now to resolve it.
“It runs out there in the yard,” Regina Thorpe said, describing her house and driveway, which have been flooded with raw sewage since her plumbing failed in early December.
Thorpe’s phone shows 32 calls to her landlord while she says she's been forced to live in squalor.
“I had to put a trash bag over my little garbage can to use it,” Thorpe said. “I fell off of it because I'm too old to try to squat down over a garbage can to use the bathroom."
Thorpe bought a portable toilet, piled her belongings on furniture and threw out her favorite rug.
“All the water rushed out into the den. So it just got soaked. Everything got soaked,” said Thorpe’s daughter Ericka Slaughter.
“I can't afford to go live nowhere else,” said Thorpe.
On Friday, we contacted the city, which checked their pipes and opened a code enforcement case against her landlord , Main Street Renewal.
Main Street Renewal manages 11-thousand single family homes including 220 in Tampa.
The company has 188 Better Business Bureau complaints, many related to repair issues.
Main Street Renewal’s President Clay Hobbs says most repairs are completed within 5 days and that they try to complete emergency complaints within 24 hours, but points out that Thorpe called a branch office, rather than the company’s 24 hour Emergency line, resulting in delays.
He said the plumbing problem was also especially difficult to diagnose, since it involved clogs caused by underground tree roots.
In the escalation process of Thorpe’s complaint, Hobbs said that Main Street Renewal employees did not believe it was a habitability issue, since they thought their maintenance staff could correct the problem.
He says his company strives to provide quality housing to all residents and has a 78 percent lease renewal rate.
“If I pay my rent on time every month, then whatever maintenance problem I'm having should be fixed in a timely manner,” said Thorpe.
After the city got involved, the plumber came back out to the home and blew out the sewage line, allowing the family use their bathrooms.
The company is now trying to find a permanent solution to the problem, which likely will involve replacing the old pipe.
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