Tenant, landlord locked in dispute over heat

Woman refuses to move to allow repairs

FLINT TWP. — Seventy-five-year-old Annie Moss has been sitting in her apartment with no heat for the past couple of weeks, trying to stay warm by bundling up in blankets and running two space heaters and two warming fans.

The management at West Court Ranches apartments, 4233 W. Court St. in Flint Township, says they have been prepared to move her to another apartment with heat, but she refuses to go.

The dispute began when Moss complained that, despite paying $445 a month in rent that includes heat and water, the management turns the heat off at the end of March and refuses to turn it back on until Nov. 1, no matter how cold it may still get in early spring and fall.

The maintenance supervisor, who identified himself only as Pete, said a new boiler was installed more than a month ago, and all the other 99 apartments have heat.

“The problem is there’s a broken pipe under her apartment, and we have another apartment for her to move to, but she won’t move,” Pete said. “She has to move because it has to get fixed.”

Moss said she has breathing problems and can’t live in an apartment where floors are being ripped up and work is going on that will create dust and debris in the air. She refuses to move to the apartment the management has ready for her and her husband because it is next to the office, where smoke from the office fireplace also will worsen her breathing problems.

“They have two apartments by me that are sitting empty,” Moss said. “Why can’t they get one of those ready for me? I’d move there, and it wouldn’t bother my breathing.”

Pete said there are two empty apartments on the side of the complex where Moss now lives, but the tenants only recently moved out, and both apartments need new carpeting, new paint and repairs. He said there are other issues at the complex that are more pressing, especially when there is an acceptable apartment ready for Moss right now.

“The one she is willing to move to is right next to my apartment, and there’s more smoke over there,” he said. “She just wants to stay on that side, but she can’t.”

Township Supervisor Karyn Miller said the dispute is a civil matter, but landlords are required to provide a safe environment, such as making sure the roof is on right and that tenants have heat and running water. She said code enforcement had been involved, and Pete said code enforcer Bernard Shuman has been out to the apartment complex three or four times and is aware that Moss is refusing to move into the apartment that has been offered.

Moss also said the water at the apartment complex is not fit to drink or cook with and that there have been several boil orders issued by the management. Not true, Pete says.

“There’s no problems whatsoever with our well,” he said. “We put in a new well three years ago. The state of Michigan comes and tests for us every month, and everything is approved. We had a boil order twice in two years, and we weren’t required to do it. It was just precautionary.”

In the meantime, Moss and the management are in a stalemate. Moss says she’s doing fine with her blankets and space heaters for now in her apartment that has two rooms, a kitchenette and a bathroom. Pete says he has continued to work with the township and is ready to help her move so the broken pipe can be fixed, but she is just being stubborn.

Mother Nature may force the issue in the next few days with the National Weather Service forecasting overnight lows in the low 20s through the weekend for the Flint area and down into the teens by the beginning of next week.