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Renters hope raw sewage ordeal will help others

RICHMOND, Va. -- Renters who live on the Richmond's Northside said they have been frustrated for months waiting on their landlord to fix an issue of standing raw sewage in their back yard.

Orlando Harried said the sewage has been leaking and pooling into a ditch in his back yard since February, so he called CBS 6 Problem Solvers to ask us about tenant’s rights.

He and his wife, Cheryl Vannote, said the smell from the sewage and the insects the waste attracts are horrible.

“The sewage first started to back up into our home," Harried explained. "That’s how we knew we had a sewer line problem. It was all in the sinks and the tubs and everything.”

Orlando Harried

Orlando Harried

He said he took his problem to the landlord, but their problems only worsened. And the couple are worried about the potential health hazards.

“It can cause respiratory problems, bacteria. All sorts of problems can come from raw sewage,” Harried said.

Richmond health and code enforcement officials told the CBS 6 Problem Solvers that landlords must comply with building and housing codes that affect health and safety. They must also make repairs to keep premises fit and habitable.

Sewage

Sewage

After an inspection at the home Harried is renting, the city sent a violation notice to the property owners. Inspectors gave them until May 30 to fix the sewage issue. If not, the property owners could face legal action, fines and the home could be condemned.

Harried and his wife said they want other renters to know what rights they have if they too have a problem with a landlord.

Problem Solvers found out that the Virginia Residential Landlord-Tenant Act directs tenants to do four things if they’re having trouble with a landlord doing repair work.

  1. Renters must identify the problems and mail a written notice to the landlord.
  2. They must wait a reasonable period time to give the owner a chance to remedy the issue.
  3. If it is not fixed in a reasonable time, renters can take the written notice and the next month’s rent to General District Court.
  4. They can then file a tenant’s assertion and their rent will be held in an escrow account.

Harried didn’t take his case that far, because over the weekend, he said the sewer line was repaired.

City inspectors, who gave the property owners four days to fix the sewer pipe, plan to return this week to re-inspect to make sure it is up to code.

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