By Kati Weis


DENVER (CBS4) – A family in the Green Valley Ranch community told CBS4 they’ve rented a house from hell, saying the odor of urine and mold in the home is so foul, it clings to the clothes and hair of anyone who comes to visit. Here’s how they found themselves in that situation: Tyjohanna Whitacker said she was desperate to find a new home for her family of seven after her previous landlord said she would be selling their rental house in 30 days. But because of Whitacker’s bad credit, she had trouble finding something.

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“Our applications got denied, numerous times,” Whitacker said.

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Eventually, using a site online, she found a landlord renting a four-bed, four-bath in the Green Valley Ranch area who didn’t mind her low credit.

“We thought it was a blessing,” Whitacker told CBS4. “We came, we looked at the house… and of course it was a mess… it smelled bad, because (the previous tenant) had a dog, and there were holes in the walls, but she had her furniture in place, pictures on the wall, it looked like a home, a home that had been loved hard. But we figured when you move out, a landlord replaces the carpet and shampoos it, if it’s salvageable, fixes the holes in the walls…But he didn’t. He didn’t do any of that.”

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When they moved in, Whitacker said the urine and feces-stained carpets were still intact. The landlord agreed to remove the carpets, but after ripping them up, she said he left the laying on the back deck. Even after the carpet was ripped up, however, the basement of the home still smells so bad, Whitacker said it is unlivable.

In fact, she said, there even appeared to be urine stains on the walls of the basement. Those were just a few of her concerns with the house.

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She said she was willing to do some work to it, to improve the conditions.

“(But) the more we cleaned, the more we found,” Whitacker said.

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Frustrated, she called the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. Officials with DDPHE said while inspectors did not find the home to be legally unlivable, they did send the landlord – Mark Palasz – several notices of violations.

If he doesn’t make fixes, he could be slapped with fines up to $999 a day for every day the violations remain. However, Palasz said he has addressed about 70% of the violations, and plans to haul away the stinky carpet in the coming days.

“Of course, we’re willing to do whatever we can to make sure that it doesn’t (smell in the house),” Palasz said. “We’re going down the list and making sure we tackle everything and go from there.”

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Whitacker hopes that’s true.

“No matter who you are, you don’t have to accept being treated less than human,” Whitacker said. “(Right now) I wouldn’t bring a dog to this house.”

A family friend of Whitacker tested samples from the home, which came back positive for meth and mold. DDPHE has since sent a notification to Palasz requiring him to have a state-certified industrial hygienist test the home for the presence of mold and meth amphetamines. Palasz said he will comply with that requirement.

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In the meantime, Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore, who represents that district, said she has begun following the case.

“The conditions are atrocious,” Gilmore said.

She said a new state law – the Residential Tenants Health and Safety Act – which went into affect in August, could help Whitacker. Gilmore said she reached out to the city attorney for more guidance on how that law is meant to be enforced.

To learn more about that law, click here.

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DDPHE said it has handled more than 800 complaints about poor living conditions this year alone, and more than 1,100 in 2018.

This year, the city has already deemed 70 different homes legally unlivable.

 

Kati Weis

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