Collapsed ceiling and failing septic tank system push tenant and landlord to court

On Your Side: Repair problems force tenant to act

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A modest house, owned by a Larisa Realty Trust, is being rented by Tovondra Nesbitt.

"There's a leak in the roof somewhere," Nesbitt told First Coast News. She, her husband, and three children moved in six months ago and she said it is been one repair issue after another.

"We had to spend our savings to fix this place," she said. "We did not have A/C; no stove, no refrigerator and I had to call out rotor rooter."

The ceiling collapsed in a bedroom, which forced her, she said, to move everything into the living room.

"When that ceiling collapsed on her bed." said her attorney, Preston Oughton, "it wasn't until two weeks before repairs were made. Until then, the only response was, 'move out.'"

She hasn't - not yet.

Instead, Oughton filed suit against her landlord, Larisa Realty Trust. "The request for repairs are reasonable and should have been made timely," he said.

The city's Municipal Compliance Division is also involved. Inspectors issued the landlord notices to correct.

"We already moved out of one house that they owned: it was not wired," Nesbitt said. "They put us in this house." She said the stress is affecting her husband's health and it is taking a toll on the family.

"My Mother's Day was not good," she said. "We had to celebrate outdoors."

The landlord has hired someone to make repairs on the ceiling, but has yet to finish; the failing septic system is still a concern to Nesbitt's family. Ougton said his client is not moving until this case is resolved before a judge.

"I hope to put her back in the same position, she was before moving in," he said.

Larisa Realty Trust is being represented by attorney Josh Woolsey. He sent this statement disputing the claims in the lawsuit:

"Ms. Nesbitt moved in to that home knowing it needed repairs.  My client has made multiple attempts to complete the repairs, but Ms. Nesbitt has not been cooperative.  It has been reported to us that Ms. Nesbitt has refused multiple third-party contractors from accessing the entire house to complete repairs, despite coordinating such inspections/repairs with Ms. Nesbitt’s counsel.  It has also been reported to us that her husband was aggressive and intimidating during workers’ visits.  On one occasion the police were called out based on a reported battery by Ms. Nesbitt’s husband against one of the contractors.  Pursuant to the Lease, her husband is not supposed to be living in the home.

Ms. Nesbitt previously claimed she spent over $16,000 on the property and demanded in writing that it be paid by our clients.  Upon looking into this demand, we have confirmed many of these alleged repairs by Ms. Nesbitt never actually took place.  In fact, approximately $10,000 of it was never spent by Ms. Nesbitt despite her representations.  After being confronted with evidence, Ms. Nesbitt now concedes this fact.  Additionally, even though Ms. Nesbitt claims to have given our client notice and an opportunity to complete the repairs she made, the alleged expenses she incurred started the day after she moved in, confirming our client had no reasonable opportunity to complete these repairs.  When there were attempts to make the other repairs, Ms. Nesbitt was not cooperative.

Despite having no legal basis for her claims, our client offered to allow her out of the Lease, waive the past due rent and even pay her several thousand dollars.  She has chosen to stay in the home.  We believe our client has made reasonable efforts to resolve this matter and attempted to provide Ms. Nesbitt with reasonable alternatives to staying in the home. " 

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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