Tenant in unlivable home says Memphis Housing Authority failed to inspect Section 8 property

Investigations

MHA says they have no record of complaints

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Anita Adams says, after three years, she is tired of dealing with housing problems. She called WREG for help with the Memphis Housing Authority.

WREG first brought you her story back in April, when a tree fell and knocked the fuse box off her rental house in North Memphis, leaving the breast cancer survivor without power for weeks.

“I literally sat in this house for three months without any heat. Three whole months and it was cold,” Adams said.

Finally her landlord got that fixed, but not the other headaches she says she was been living with at the home.

“I had large mushrooms growing through my floor,” Adams said.

It’s in a home that Memphis Housing Authority listed as one Section 8 tenants could choose under the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Tenants are awarded federal funds based on their income. They find a place to live from a list approved by the Memphis Housing Authority, and MHA pays the landlord.

“He gets $613 a month for this house. That’s too much. Not for my living conditions,” Adams said.

She says no one responded to her constant complaints about the condition of the property.

“It was just a disaster, and then my attic stairs fell. I complained to them about that. They never came,” Adams said.

We went to the Memphis Housing Authority.

Dexter Washington, chief operating officer of the Housing Authority, said there are standards any property accepted for the program must meet.

“It has to pass a Housing Quality inspection. For that, we are checking for the soundness of the home. Make sure the tenant is in a safe decent space,” Washington said. “That it has the proper appliances, a refrigerator, stove, range. Those are things that are required.”

But Adams said she never had a stove or refrigerator in the unit she is renting. She bought her own mini-fridge and microwave.

“I don’t have no stove, no refrigerator and none of that in my house, but my light bill runs me between $500 and $800 dollars a month. That’s ridiculous,” said Adams.

Washington said it would be “highly unusual” for MHA to pass a unit with no stove or refrigerator.

MHA says they inspect Housing Choice Voucher homes before move-in, and then every two years, unless there is a complaint.

But Adams said no inspectors had been by her house.

“I don’t have no stove, no refrigerator and none of that in my house, but my light bill runs me between $500 and $800 dollars a month. That’s ridiculous.”

Anita Adams

MHA says during the pandemic, for existing tenants, landlords were allowed to do self-inspections.

“We notify the owner of what the deficiency is and give them a time to make the correction,” said Washington.

As for Anita Adams’ problem property, MHA said they had no record of her complaints, but would have done her regular biennial inspection this summer and would have noticed the deficiencies.

After WREG started asking questions, MHA deemed Anita Adams home unlivable and removed it from the voucher program, giving her time to find another property where she can move.

“I just want these landlords to be more responsible, take care of your tenants if they are calling and complaining,” Adams said. “If you are getting that government money, make sure families are living in adequate living conditions.”

MHA says it’s up to tenants to let them know about problems. Unfortunately, since the pandemic, you can’t just walk up and do that. You have to call in.

The agency says two months ago, they resumed full home inspections, meaning they will be going out looking at these properties they are putting people in.

There are 8,000 properties in MHA’s Choice Voucher Program and five MHA inspectors to check them. But MHA says they are adequately staffed.

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