Cleveland apartment building in foreclosure, tenants left without heat several weeks

Landlord collects rent while bank takes possession

CLEVELAND - A growing number of tenants are being left without heat and other utilities, as apartment owners fall into foreclosure.

Sirlinda Chase of Cleveland  is doing all she can to raise her 7-year-old son, despite tough economic circumstances.

However, over the past two months, her situation has gotten even more challenging after the heat in her apartment building was suddenly cut.

Chase told NewsChannel5 the owner of the building went into foreclosure without warning, and when the bank took possession, the heat and water was turned off to all five units at the complex.

"I gave him two months rent for a security deposit, he took my September and October rent, and never said the building was under foreclosure," said Chase. "Once we found out, that's when he stopped answering calls."

Chase showed NewsChannel5 Troubleshooter Joe Pagonakis how she must now boil water on her electric range, and run the oven with the door open, in a desperate attempt to keep her unit warm."

"I'm so beat just trying to fight this alone," said Chase. "I happy that  you're here helping me. I'm crying out for help."

5 On Your Side took this case the Cleveland Housing Court Judge Ray Pianka, and Housing Court Specialist Robert Fuchs.

Fuchs explained a property owner must keep heat in all units, no matter how the rental unit has changed hands.

"If it's below 50 degrees, the city code says and owner has to be able to provide heat at 70 degrees in the habitable areas of the house, said Fuchs.

Judge Pianka explained the Tennant Protection Act calls for utilities to be maintained for at least 90 days, even after a property falls into foreclosure.

"The landlord has an obligation, even if the property is purchased at sheriff's sale, to keep the property fit and habitable," explained Judge Pianka. "This is something they can't ignore, they are to provide heat."

Cleveland Housing Court agreed to contact the bank that is now holding the property, and is working with the listing agent, in effort to get the heat restored.

Cleveland Building and Housing inspectors are also being called to the complex, to make use the furnaces at the property are operable, and safe.

Tenants are urged to contact Cleveland Housing Court , and the Cleveland Tenants Organization , if they need help fighting for their rights.

Residents will find all they need to know about landlord-tenant law, facts and rights on the websites.

NewsChannel5 will follow up on its effort to restore heat the Cleveland apartment complex, and we'll keep you updated on this developing story.

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