PHOENIX - One day after city prosecutors won guilty verdicts on 385 criminal charges against the Woodbridge apartment complex, a disabled tenant says a property manager took away her air conditioning unit and started eviction proceedings against her because she complained about a gaping hole in the concrete outside her unit.
Marylin Stovall suffers from diabetes and COPD.
She moved into an apartment at Woodbridge on August 1.
She says she asked property managers to repair problems in her unit with her oven, a broken stove, badly stained carpeting and a lack of adequate air conditioning.
She says air conditioning is vital because of her health problems.
Stovall told ABC15 Investigators none of the problems were repaired but the property manager did provide her with a window air conditioning unit.
Then her daughter came to visit from California.
Her daughter, Shaquana Callins, says before she even got inside her mother's apartment she nearly tripped and fell on a gaping hole in the concrete outside the front door.
ABC15 Investigators have seen and photographed the same problem with holes in the concrete elsewhere in the Woodbridge apartment complex.
We've also exposed serious safety problems with rotting wood and broken and dangerous balconies.
Callins says she and her mother went down to the property manager's office Saturday morning to get the hole in the concrete repaired.
Callins says the property manager was flippant about their complaint, telling her repairs are made when they are made.
Callins says when she insisted the hole constituted a serious safety danger, the property manager got angry.
Marilyn Stovall and her daughter say the property manager immediately demanded the return of the air conditioning unit the building had provided.
Stovall says she refused to return the unit and reminded the property manager that she had serious health challenges that require sufficient air conditioning.
Stovall says the property manager called the police but when they came out they didn't force her to return the air conditioning unit. She did however, reluctantly return it a day later.
Stovall says five days later the property manager had her served with eviction papers.
Stovall says they are terminating her lease and evicting her because the property manager claims she was threatened by Stovall's daughter during the argument over the hole in the concrete.
Stovall says the property manager's decision to take back the air conditioning unit was punishment for her complaints about conditions at Woodbridge.
She calls the eviction notice retaliation for speaking out about the conditions at Woodbridge.
"With my health problems, the last thing I need is to go through all this stress," Stovall said.
According to City of Phoenix Community Outreach Director and Tenant/Landlord Counselor Alma Lara, there is a provision in state law that allows a landlord to evict a tenant who threatens or intimidates a property manager. However, according to Lara, the law specifically provides that if a tenant's guest is the one doing the threatening or intimidating and the tenant had no prior knowledge of the act or participation in it, it cannot be held against them.
We asked Lara about Stovall's claim that taking the air conditioning unit away from her amounted to punishment. She told us there is a provision in state law that prohibits a landlord from retaliating against a tenant just because a tenant has asked for repairs.
She says she will try to convince a judge in eviction court that Stovall's daughter never threatened or attempted to intimidate the property manager and the attempt to evict her is pure retaliation.
She says the property manager's decision to take away that air conditioning unit is proof that she's being punished strictly for complaining about conditions at Woodbridge.
And Marilyn Stovall says the fact that a municipal court judge has found Woodbridge guilty of 385 criminal counts for failing to make repairs that would provide humane living conditions will be part of her argument to the court.
Alma Lara says the key to avoiding trouble as a renter is to do your homework. Know your rights. Document everything from the day you first examine your rental unit, to the day you move in, to the day you encounter any problems in your unit, to the day you move out. She says use that camera in your phone to photograph everything and anything that might be important if your requests for repairs go ignored.
Lara points out that the City of Phoenix offers help to tenants who have problems like those Marilyn Stovall is going through
today. Lara says tenants can even request a city inspector come out and complete an inspection of their apartment.
The place to go to get help is the 4th floor of 200 West Washington in Phoenix -- the City's Department of Neighborhoods. They are open 8 a.m.. to 5 p.m.. Monday through Friday and you can call them at 602-534-4444.