Homeowner forces tenant to live without heat

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The warmer temperatures this week are bringing some relief to an Albuquerque woman who’s been living in a frozen hell for a month.

Ashley Reach rents a duplex in Albuquerque’s UNM neighborhood. The morning of Friday, Jan. 10, she woke up to a very cold home.

“The whole weekend, no heat. We had one space heater at the time,” Reach said. “I’m living like I’m squatting in a house that I pay $750 a month for.”

She and her 3-year-old son bundled in blankets while they waited for heat. Reach called the property management company and the owner, but heard nothing. A week later, a repair man came to check out the heater.

“He fixed the heater then he tested the carbon monoxide levels – said they were extremely high. He legally could not leave the heater on. He said it needed to be replaced,” Reach said.

Reach says she and her son had been feeling sick since the beginning of winter and she suspects it was carbon monoxide poisoning. Reach says she feels better since the repair man shut down the heater. But since then, her son was diagnosed with pneumonia, something she believes was brought on by the cold. Pat, the homeowner, told Reach he was trying to replace the heater.

“Pat came over told us it was expensive, handed us the two space heaters and suggested to use the oven here or there but not to sleep with it on,” Reach said.

Joe Martinez, deputy director of Albuquerque’s Safe City Strike Force, said, “It’s never a good idea in any situation to utilize an oven as a heating source.”

It’s now been a month since Reach has been without a heater. Once KRQE News 13 started making calls, Martinez showed up to inspect the property. He says a home heater is mandatory and he’s not talking about space heaters.

“The primary source inside the dwelling must be intact and operable,” Martinez said.

But he quickly realized the owner may be responsible for more problems with the rest of the duplex.

“Our neighbors – they’re having the same problem,” Reach told Martinez.

The other renters of the duplex said their heat is shutting off and the roof is leaking. Martinez asked if they talked to the management.

“I sent them an email. They never respond back to us ever,” said the renter.

Martinez left a message with the owner. KRQE News 13 did too, as well as the property manager.

The city will give the owner a couple of days to get the heaters fixed or the building could be red-tagged and the owner cited. He could face a $500 fine and 90 days in jail if he doesn’t fix the problems. The management company called late Monday afternoon telling Reach they would call her this week and set up a time to make the repairs.

For more information on renter’s rights»

Reach will stay in the home for now. Her lease ends in April. Finding another place before then won’t be easy.

“Finding another place, I have to come up with a security deposit and another month’s rent.” Reach said.

But she knows that staying here for even the short term is dangerous.

“The possibilities of a fire are extremely high. You have to watch the space heaters constantly,” Reach said.

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