Frustrated renters turn to new assistance office

 Frustrated renters turn to new assistance office »Play Video

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) -- A Bakersfield couple says they've tried for months to get repairs made to their apartment. And now instead of fixing the problems the landlord is kicking them out. The apartment manager says the couple continually complains and won't allow workers in to fix things. The renters are now taking the dispute to the new "Tenant Landlord Assistance Center."

Gregory Roberts, his girlfriend and their 7-month-old son live on Williamson Way, just south of Stockdale Highway. In February, he contacted Eyewitness News complaining about a broken heater, damaged kitchen floor and other problems.

Roberts said the management made some repairs, but only for a few days. Since then a number of problems remain.

"We've got a big hole in our shower," Roberts said. "Then they repaired it with masking tape and a tarp. And the ceiling in the baby's room has started leaking again, and they're blaming more of the damage on us."

Roberts points to a hole about the size of a dime in the baby's bedroom ceiling. His girlfriend says she noticed it after spotting water dripping on the child.

It's a problem the apartment owners dispute. Complex owner Jose Diaz said by phone on Thursday they had a worker crawl up in the ceiling, and he doesn't think there are water pipes there. He says the renters only showed them a bucket of water in the bathroom and said it came from the bedroom.

In the bathroom, the hole above the tub is covered with plastic. Asked about that half-way repair, the complex on-site manager told Eyewitness News workers got called off that job to deal with other emergencies, and since then the couple hasn't allowed crews in to make repairs.

That's something Roberts disputes, saying they haven't been given notice before the management wants to enter their apartment.

It's all boiled over to the point where the landlord gave Roberts a 60 days notice to vacate.

"On the notice to vacate, you'll notice that it doesn't give any reason why," Roberts said. "It just says, get out."

On Wednesday, Roberts headed to the Kern County courthouse on Truxtun and went to the new Landlord Tenant Assistance Center.

"They gave me a lot of advice that we didn't know about," Roberts said. "He gave me a large booklet with everything in it to know about." Roberts now has a form on which to list all the problems, he's supposed to mail that with a tracking number to the landlord, and then he says code enforcement officers can come out to inspect the apartment.

The landlord-tenant office opened in March 2012, it's a partnership between the courts and Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance. Xochitl Garcia says their goal is early mediation between landlords and renters, and helping both sides know their rights, and the procedures to reach their goals.

The center now sees an average of 15 to 20 people a day, Garcia says. It's a walk-in service, and they're on the first floor of the courthouse.

Garcia said a landlord can give a 60 day notice for a renter to vacate without giving any reason for that, if the rent is month-to-month. But, a renter can raise the issue of whether that action was taken as retaliation.

Landlord Jose Diaz said he's ready to appear before any mediation board on the dispute with Gregory Roberts. "We can't deal with these folks anymore," he said. The landlord called making repairs to a big apartment complex an ongoing situation. "We'll take care of doing repairs," Diaz said. "But we can't take abuse."

Roberts says they're the ones being mistreated. Asked if he could just move from the apartment, Roberts said both he and his girlfriend are disabled and on a limited income. "Trying to save money (to move) is almost next to impossible," he said.

So, Roberts said he'll use the advice from the tenant-landlord office, and try to get the apartment repaired as needed. "If it takes going to court about it, I'll go to court and I'll fight tooth and nail."