19 Troubleshooter: legal resources for tenants having trouble with landlords

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 6:55 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - 59-year-old Valerie Freeman has been living in a building on 81st and Madison in Cleveland since September and hasn’t had hot water or heat for months.

She says her landlord, Desmond Buchanonn, said he would fix the furnace, but it’s been sitting behind her building for more than a month.

“I wanna know why it’s out here and not up there for me to stay warm. I keep asking him; he keeps texting me and telling me he’ll get it fixed,” said Freeman.

No one should have to live in deplorable conditions, says Barbara Reitzloff. She’s a senior attorney with the non-profit, Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, which advocates for renters.

“The landlord is getting his rent; there’s absolutely no excuse for it,” she said.

Freeman used her stove to warm her apartment and was hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning.

[19 Troubleshooter: Cleveland woman hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning as she waits for landlord to fix furnace that’s been broken for months]Edit info

She’s sick and tired and wants her landlord to do the right thing and fix the problems.

Reitzloff says she has rights as a tenant.

“That’s appalling, particularly given the dangers of heating a house with your stove; we saw the people in Texas who passed away from the cold and exposure. That’s really appalling,” she said.

19 News spoke with Freeman’s landlord Desmond Buchanonn, and he said he offered to reimburse Valerie for a hotel stay. But Valerie tells 19 News she doesn’t have the money to front it.

Reitzloff says just because he offered a hotel doesn’t mean he’s off the hook.

“I think landlords sometimes get frustrated with eviction laws and decide to shut off the heat, but it sounds like this is just a landlord who’s not living up to his obligation,” she said.

In the meantime, Valerie is just trying to make it.

Click here to find resources from Legal Aid Society of Cleveland that are available.

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