Advocates help more renters with landlord complaints

By Nicole Johnson  bio | email | Twitter

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - People who rent a home or apartment may have had a problem or two with maintenance issues and getting answers from their landlord. Some residents don't know where to turn to for help.

In the Lowcountry, there is a non-profit group with a program that advises tenants and landlords on their rights.

Priscilla Smalls has rented a small home in North Charleston since November and for the past three months she says her power bills have been outrageous, ranging anywhere from $700-900 a month. She says after one of her power outlets caught on fire, a firefighter told her electrical wiring problems could be to blame, and to call her landlord.

"I shouldn't have to be calling every day," Smalls said. "That's what I've been doing for months. The fuse is blown. The fuse is blown. I got no heat. I got no heat."

Smalls recently had a stroke and can't work. She owes the electric company more than $2,500. With no answers from her landlord, she asked for help.

At the Trident Urban League, workers in the fair housing division can help renters like Smalls work through issues with their landlords. The program is aimed at counseling tenants and landlords on their rights.

"The landlords, their responsibilities are to take care of the place as far as pest control. Repair anything that needs to be repaired. And just making sure the environment is conducive to what it should be," said George Bresnihan, director of theTrident Urban League Housing Director.

Bresnihan says fair housing laws also require tenants pay rent, take care of their property, and report issues in a timely manner. Smalls says she thinks she kept up her end of the dealNow  nshe wants to know what she should do next.

"They also have to communicate with their landlord in writing, just to keep a record. They should take pictures, and do all the things you would do to have some data, so when you do go to court, you have information that can help legalize your case," Bresnihan said.

Angie Gainey Bailey, a realtor with Agent-owned Realty and current MLS Association President says the number of people renting is up in this housing market. She says so far this year Tricounty MLS data shows more than 730 properties rented, which is a 9 percent increase from the same two months last year. Priscilla Smalls says she will be meeting up with the Trident Urban League for help with her problem.

If you think you could use counseling on your rental situation, the Trident Urban League's fair housing hotline is (843) 579-7578.

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