Oregon

Gresham Looks For New Way To Manage Rental Complaints

OPB | Oct. 9, 2007 8:05 a.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:18 a.m. | Portland, OR

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By Kristian Foden-Vencil

The city of Gresham will hold a public meeting Tuesday night to talk about how its new ‘rental housing inspection program’ might work.

For example, officials have to decide what needs to be functional in an apartment for it to pass an inspection, and what fines can be levied on an owner if a property isn’t up to code.

Kristian Foden-Vencil visited a family that’s being evicted after complaining about mold, and files this report.


(Sounds of baby crying.)

The home of Judi and Rob Stushek is full. There are five cats, two dogs, three fish, a rabbit, three kids and one grandson.  The unit is not large, about 900 square feet, but at $925 a month, it’s what they can afford.

Judi says that when they first moved in, four years ago, the duplex was newly painted and looked good. But after a few months, mold started to grow.

Judi Stushek: “Every window is moldy, all the way around. You can see it all the way around each windowsill. The sliding door, back in the corner beside the freezer, on the wall, both sides of the wall, it’s nothing but one big black mold spot. We have mold in every bedroom. Every window looks like this, worse. I mean my daughter’s window, if you look through it, it just looks black.”

Stushek walks into a bathroom and points to the brown and black growths that line the walls, sink and tub.

Judi Stushek: “Of course, we’ve had water problems. When it rains outside, it rains across this door jam and across the floor. And the landlords have argued with me about that. This here, you can see is completely wet and moldy, it’s like that 24/7/365. There is nothing I can do to dry that out. Behind the toilets I’ve done them recently, and you can see it’s starting to come back.”

Kristian Foden-Vencil: “So you think there’s a hole in the roof?”

Judi Stushek: “Oh yes. I believe there is a hole in the roof and when I talked to the landlord about it, she said 'oh well, it’s a brand new roof.' And I said 'well, define brand new.' And she said '13 years.' Well, that’s not brand new.”

Stushek says she is constantly using bleach to clean the walls, but she says, the mold comes back and is ruining the health of her entire family.

Judi Stushek: “I had pleurisy eight times last year. I am currently sick again. My seven-week-old grandson is now sick. My children are sick,. My husband is sick. The illness started about six months after we moved in. Had we known that this was a mold trap, we never would have taken up residence. Myself and my son are both asthmatic, so the mold really kind of affects us worse than anybody else.”

She’s asked the owners to fix the roof and a faulty electricity panel, but to no avail. Now, after airing her concerns with a group called the ‘Community Alliance of Tenants,’ and The Oregonian newspaper, Stushek says she’s been given until tomorrow, to move out.

OPB’s calls to her landlord were not immediately returned.

This is exactly the kind of problem that Gresham City Council wants to prevent — with its new ‘rental housing inspection program.’

Spokeswoman, Laura Shepherd, says they’re holding a public meeting Tuesday to show landlords and renters the rules they’ve come up with so far, and to gather more ideas.

Laura Shepherd: “We’ve developed a tenant resource page at the city’s website. And our web address is http://www.ci.gresham.or.us. At that website, we’ve also set up a tool that will allow residents to file complaints about rental conditions. And then lastly, we’ve set up a complaint phone line where residents can call in rental condition complaints and issues. From the phone line, that’s also going to help us create a data base so we can better track some of these issues.”

Shepherd says at the meeting they’ll also talk about the new fees that are going to be needed — to pay for inspectors for instance — and what problems will constitute sub-standard housing. For example, the roof can’t leak, all the sinks need to work, and the property has to be up to  fire code.

Debora Imse is the director of the Metro Multi Family Housing Association. The  group  represents more than 200 apartment and rental property owners across the state. She says her members have been working closely with the city to develop the new program – and she’s hoping some of the their suggestions will be adopted.

Debora Imse: “Our association will continue, regardless of what the final program is that the city adopts, we will continue to work with the city of Gresham to make sure that there’s quality rental housing delivered by the landlords and that those bad actors that are out there, do get out of the business.”

Back at the Stushek home, Judi lights up a cigarette, exhales and sighs. Gresham is the state’s fourth biggest city, but she’s having problems finding anywhere to live for $925 a month.

Judi Stushek: “There’s really not a whole lot in that price range. They reported that Gresham, East County has low rent, but I don’t know where they got their figures. East County has extremely high rent. For a four bedroom unit, whether it be a house or another apartment, we’re looking at a minimum of $1,000 to $1,600 a month.”

Meanwhile, she’s retained a lawyer to talk to her landlord.

Gresham hopes to launch its new rental housing inspection program at the beginning of next year.

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