Ceiling Comes Crashing Down On Renters

CLEVELAND – A house is literally coming down around the family that pays rent to live there, but the man who has collected the rent checks says that he can't do anything about it, Action News' Dawn Kendrick reported.

Many neighbors on Gertrude Avenue near Fleet Avenue in Cleveland's Slavic Village call the home a hazard, but it's where Tonya Shamblin, her boyfriend and her children have been living since February.

Shamblin's boyfriend, Tim Papp, said that in that time, conditions have gone from bad to worse.

"I've been calling the landlord and he says, 'I'll send someone out,'" Papp said. "The only time I see him is when he's here to pick up the rent."

On Friday night, Papp was standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I looked up and the whole ceiling just came down on me," he said. "I'm not glad it happened, but I was glad it fell down on me because we set my son's highchair there and everything."

The landlord, Bill Smith, said that the ceiling came crashing down four days after he sold the house, and that he had no prior knowledge of problems.

"It is unfortunate that this accident occurred, but after the title transferred to the Fifth Real Estate Investment Co., my client has no ability to help the tenant," Smith's attorney told Action News.

The problems have been piling up for awhile, however.

"The house caught on fire upstairs a couple times before we even moved in," Papp said, adding that there's no hot water because the gas company turned off the gas.

"You can smell the gas," he said. "It's ridiculous. My house is going to blow up."

Papp said that child safety locks on the cabinets inside the home do no good because when you go to open the cabinets, the doors fall right off. He said that they are rotting away.

"The kids sleep downstairs because there are birds in their closet," Shamblin said. "There's also a fuse box in their room that is unsafe."

She added that electrical sockets routinely catch fire near the children's bed and the shower is also rotting away.

"We have to use a bucket of water to fill up the back of the reservoir of the toilet to flush it with plenty of water," Shamblin said.

There are issues outside as well.

"The kids can't come out here and play because there's rats, skunks and possums living in the garbage," Shamblin said.

When asked why they still live in the obviously dilapidated building, Shamblin said that she has nowhere else to go because she can't get help from anybody.

The company that purchased the house has hired a contractor to do nearly $35,000 worth of improvements to the structure, but Shamblin and her family will not see the upgrades because the company expects the home to be vacated by the end of the month.