DENVER (CBS4) – Tyjohanna Whitacker said it was an emotional day when she learned she no longer had to live in a home reeking of urine and mold. The call came after her family had spent a month living in “unlivable” conditions in Green Valley Ranch rental house.
“I was at work, and I started crying,” she recalled.
Whitacker said an old friend saw the CBS4 story exposing the conditions in the home, and called her to help.
“She reached out to me the following day, and said, ‘Oh my gosh Tyjohanna, I have a home that’s available for rent. It’s been vacant for two months,'” Whitacker said. “It was by the grace of God that the house was just sitting here waiting for us.”
In July, she and her family of seven were desperate to find a new house after their previous landlord said she would be selling their current home. Because of her bad credit, Whitacker had trouble finding a new place, until a landlord renting a home on Ireland Street in Green Valley Ranch accepted her application.
But, on move-in day, the house was a disaster. Water was leaking on the basement floor, piles of trash were stuffed under the deck, and the carpets and walls were stained with urine. The house smelled so bad, Whitacker said it made her family sick.
“I mean, none of us have asthma, yet we were having trouble breathing,” she said.
Whitacker said, because of her lousy credit, she felt like she had no other option but to try and stick it out.
She filed a complaint with the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, which told CBS4 it cited the landlord $999 for not addressing some of the violations found in the home.
Now, she and her family are celebrating a fresh start.
“Because of… Channel 4, our story got out there, and the right person heard it, and now we’re in a home! I’m so excited, so excited,” she said.
The landlord of the Green Valley Ranch house said he’s fixing some of the violations found in the home, but is also appealing some others. The health department said the landlord must address the citation before any other tenants can move in.
In the meantime, if you find yourself in a situation like Whitacker’s there’s a new state law that might help you, called the Residential Tenants Health and Safety Act.
State Rep. Dominique Jackson sponsored the bill. Jackson told CBS4 the bill is designed to force a landlord to perform.
“The real bargaining chip of it is that the tenant can withhold rent, and I would imagine that every landlord is renting their property, because they want to collect rent,” said Jackson.