Attorney weighs in on living conditions at Salem apartment complex

What residents can do if their apartment management company won’t answer calls

We spoke with a legal expert on help available to tenants in difficult situations

SALEM, Va. – More complaints from an apartment complex in Salem have been coming into the newsroom after 10 News reported the shocking conditions at The View at 777.

From dead bats to a collapsed ceiling, some residents are concerned why management is not addressing their problems.

“Maintenance of the property is just unbearable,” said resident Jay Butterworth.

But the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act have sections to help tenants in these situations.

“It’s designed to protect them so that they can have a causative action against a landlord who is not doing what they are supposed to be doing, maintaining the property so that it is inhabitable,” said Justin Steele, an Attorney at The Law Office of James Steele.

One of the residents says she found a bat in her unit and possibly bat feces in the air vent. According to the VRLTA, this infestation of rodents would be cause for a tenant’s assertion which is a complaint filed against a landlord by a tenant for their failure to fulfill an obligation.

“If there is a pest problem, rats, bats, I would argue bugs, then there may be reason to file a tenants assertion,” added Steele.

Another complaint from residents is the recent increase in rent.

“The rent almost doubled, and they’re going up again,” said Butterworth.

“August is our last month, and when we renew it will be $400 more, $500 more,” said Alyssa Conner who also lives there.

According to Steele, landlords can increase the rent as long as it is not during a current lease.

“Your lease should protect you from most rent hikes, so long as it exists,” he said.

Lastly, some at The View say they’ve received backlogged utility bills, something Steele says doesn’t sound right.

“Around Christmas time we got a bill for about $2,000. They backtracked us to August,” said Conner.

“Unless it’s specifically defined in the lease, and written out how it’s going to be done, I would be fighting that,” added Steele.

Bottom line: check your lease and know your rights.

About the Author:

Alyssa Rae grew up in Roanoke and graduated from Virginia Tech. An avid sports fan, she spent her first 8 years in TV as a sports anchor and reporter.