Richmond families forced to leave apartment due to carbon monoxide leaks

RICHMOND, Va. -- Dozens of South Richmond residents are without their homes again due to ongoing issues with carbon monoxide leaks.

The city condemned eight units in the 3400 block of Maury Street at the Village South Townhomes complex.

Numerous residents have fallen ill from leaks that occurred in February, May and the latest evacuation happened June 28.

Arkeshia Johnson fears for the safety of her newborn and 4-year-old daughters.  She said the leak came from a faulty gas water heater next to her daughter’s room.

Arkeshia Johnson

“My 4-year-old daughter’s room is where the highest levels are coming from,” explained Johnson. “As a mother, how am I supposed to protect her from something I can’t see, smell?  I don’t know anything and the alarms never go off. When you can’t protect your children that’s a whole new level of mad.”

Johnson and other residents have spent weeks displaced in hotel rooms as they waited for a the property owner to make repairs.

“There was duct tape on the vents which they said the city told them to do that the city approved it, there’s no way the city did that,” said Johnson. “They aren’t giving us any more hotels because they say it costs them too much money to house us as if it’s our fault.”

As frustration grew, so did safety concerns.  The city pulled the permit for the building last week and cut off the gas leaving families without working stoves and hot water.

Arkeshia Johnson

“They gave us two options. You could stay and tough it out until they get another permit and give us a $200 credit toward the rent.”

Or residents could take the $200 credit and terminate their lease as stated in an email to tenants:

7/10/2018

All Residents of Building 3444 Maury St.

Dear Resident (s)

As I mentioned in the email on Friday July 6th the City of Richmond has required the owner to pull a building permit for your apartment row. The problem with this is the City Inspectors will not restore gas services in the meantime and permits will take up to 30 daysTherefor you have two options:

1)     1) You can stay within the unit until the full scope of work is completed and services are restored. Your July Rent will be credited $200.00. No additional hotel stays will be given or additional rent credits. Should you stay, Dillion Plumbing Service is to install a new water heater this week. From there it will take the City of Richmond up to 30 days to process the building permit. Once we have the permit, the City Inspector will come out to inspect the water heater installation. From there he could request for correction of something he sees or pass the inspection. Once pass the utility department should restore services within 24-74 hours.

2)     2) You can be released from your lease agreement so that you can find other housing. There will also be a credit towards your account of $200.00. The rent amount for the month of July will be waived so that you can use those funds to secure new housing. 

The problem solvers contacted the city and we were told option one was not an option rather a violation of the following state codes.

      502.1 Dwelling units.

Every dwelling unit shall contain its own bathtub or shower, lavatory, water closet and kitchen sink which shall be maintained in a sanitary, safe working condition. The lavatory shall be placed in the same room as the water closet or located in close proximity to the door leading directly into the room in which such water closet is located. A kitchen sink shall not be used as a substitute for the required lavatory.

         505.1 General.

Every sink, lavatory, bathtub or shower, drinking fountain, water closet or other plumbing fixture shall be properly connected to either a public water system or to an approved private water system. All kitchen sinks, lavatories, laundry facilities, bathtubs and showers shall be supplied with hot or tempered and cold running water in accordance with the International Plumbing Code.

The city inspector said the the water heater is governed under another code, and all of these elements must be met from the general to the specific in order for a structure to have the required habitability elements in order to either occupy or allow someone to occupy a structure.

         505.4 Water heating facilities.

Water heating facilities shall be properly installed, maintained and capable of providing an adequate amount of water to be drawn at every required sink, lavatory, bathtub, shower and laundry facility at a minimum temperature of 110°F (43°C). A gas-burning water heater shall not be located in any bathroomtoilet roombedroom or other occupied room normally kept closed, unless adequate combustion air is provided. An approved combination temperature and pressure-relief valve and relief valve discharge pipe shall be properly installed and maintained on water heaters.

Urgent notices to vacate the properties were placed on doors Wednesday afternoon.

“Moving is something you plan you don’t get up tomorrow and say I’m going to move me and my entire family,” said Johnson. “You can look at all of these people and say I’m going to collect from them but you can’t look at us and say I’m going to take care of you. Do what’s right.”

“Pay for our moving expenses, pay for a deposit. Help us to find somewhere to live because this was not our fault,” Johnson added.

Johnson and her family are currently staying with family.

She will meet with social services Thursday morning.

Residents were given housing options and contacts for assistance.

The city says Genesis Management was given a deadline to make repairs and allow inspectors to examine every unit in the complex.

The property owner tells CBS 6 he is working with the city to get this resolved as expeditiously as possible but the permitting process could take 30 days or longer.

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