Renter turns to Channel 2 for help after sewage soaks her apartment

Kayla Smith

Kayla Smith

A Denver woman finds sewage seeping throughout her apartment. And she calls Colorado’s Own Channel 2 for help.

“I am the property manager, you guys need to leave,” says Pam Oliver, who manages Cherry Creek Greens Apartments at S. Havana Street and E. Girard Avenue.

“I live here. I pay my rent,” says Kayla Smith, 20, who invited us into her home–and which gives us the right to stay.

Kayla knows a thing or two about rights.

She’s a restoration expert and knows what responsibilities fall upon landlords.

One is a tenant’s right to a safe and healthy home.

The problem started Monday, after Kayla came home from work.

Inside her bathroom lay sewage. It then spread to her hallway, dining room, bedroom closet and furnace closet.

It’s something she sees all the time at her job.

And it appears management may have tried cutting corners.

“It’s really nasty water, fecal matter, anything you flush down the toilet was coming into my apartment,” says Kayla.

She says it was soaking all her furniture.  “I work hard for everything I have. And these people, they don’t care. They don’t care at all,” she says.

She thought they’d take care of the problem–by bringing in a restoration company.

But they said she could pay for it herself.

“They won’t help. They keep sending people who don’t know what they’re doing,” says Kayla.

Oliver brings in a repairman to assess cutting out drywall and removing mold.

“The furnace is going to have to come out. I can’t even turn the heat on,” Kayla tells Oliver. Kayla says she’s keeping it off because she worries mold will get sucked into the intake, and then blown out through the vents, sending dangerous spores throughout her apartment.

Kayla says this inspection is inadequate to address health issues.

“Are you certified in water damage? She asks the repairman. “Do you have a certification?”

Little do they know Kayla is an expert at restoration.

“I know what needs to be done. The carpet should have been torn out the first night. They should have had asbestos testing done. It’s state law,” says Kayla.

Community Housing Services confirms Kayla is entitled to expert restoration.

“She can demand that. She can demand that because it’s a health and code violation … Anything that has to do with the sewer is on the landlord to do,” says Grace Crewse who troubleshoots landlord/tenant issues five days a week for the Denver nonprofit.

If it’s a problem affecting habitability–or a person’s ability to live safely in the home, the landlord must fix the problem within a reasonable time–or let the tenant out of the lease.

If the landlord fails to fix the problem, your city or county code enforcement officer can heavily fine him/her.

Kayla says she feels hopeless.

No restoration. She can’t get out of her lease. And she can’t bring home her dog, Gus, whose sick with cancer.

“There are a lot of dangers to that breathing all that stuff, especially when they start cutting, and dust goes everywhere. They need to do things the right way and they don’t want to,” says Kayla.

Eventually, the property manager says she’ll let Kayla out of her lease–but she’ll lose her security deposit.

Kayla says it’s unfair because the back-up was not her fault.

If you’re unsure what rights you have as a tenant, check out “A Guide to Renter’s Rights and Responsibilities.”