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Renters sour over super bowl spill

Posted at 10:56 PM, Feb 10, 2015

ALPINE TOWNSHIP, Mich.— A sewage leak is a nightmare for any homeowner or renter. But bad timing -- on Super Bowl Sunday -- is not the worst for the Schusslers at York Creek Apartments. They might not be reimbursed for loss and cleanup.

“We saw the toilet paper flowing down the hallway, and the smell was awful,” said Brittany Schussler, a renter at York Creek Apartments.
"I did start to panic, because I know how dangerous it can be to have anybody around it."

The Schusslers’ belongings were soaked in waste, an estimated $3,000 worth of damage, but that’s just the beginning of their trouble. These renters tell us the fine print in their insurance coverage along with a Michigan State Law could prevent any kind of compensation.

The incident happened on Super Bowl Sunday. The Schusslers’ apartment at York Creek and 11 other units experience sewage damage from a leak not from the complex itself but from a pipe owned by Alpine Township. Finding out who’s responsible for the damage is a tangled web.

It wasn’t the aftermath of a good Super Bowl Sunday Party nor mischief by their two-year-old or four-month-old.

“We started throwing towels down at the doors, and trying to keep it from getting to the carpet, and it just kept coming and coming we couldn’t stop it,” said Brittany. “More water was coming in as fast as they could pump it out."

The Schusslers say that they were told by York Creek Apartments they would replace everything in two week’s time.

“Completely disgusting it was sitting in the sewage the whole time. I said, ‘well you can do 12 apartments in two weeks? All of us renovate the whole thing?”

Brittany and her husband Kenneth said most of their furniture and personal belongings are a loss.

York Creek Apartments said the couple still had to pay rent while they renovated the apartment, even though they would have to live elsewhere. With no guarantee everything would get replaced and cleaned the way Brittany thought it should be, they terminated their lease.

“I told them I really don't feel comfortable bringing both my children back here,” said Brittany.

More bad news was on the tail end. The $50,000 liability insurance they purchased doesn't cover anything.

“They wouldn't even cover a hotel for us to stay in,” said Kenneth.

What the Schussler’s should have purchased was renter’s insurance, but they didn’t know that at the time.

York Creek Apartments isn’t responsible for the sewage burst. They have 12 apartments to repair. The Alpine Township pipe is maintained by North Kent Sewer Authority. However, they aren’t necessarily responsible for the damage.

“The people that pay taxes are the ones who still suffer,” said Kenneth.

According to Michigan Law, Public Act 222, if the township didn’t know there was a problem with the pipes, they are not responsible for the damage. This means York Creek Apartments and the Schusslers have to file a claim within 45 days and be able to prove the township neglected to take care of a faulty pipe. Unless the township deliberately neglected to fix something they knew was broken, they don’t have to pay for the damage.

The act was made in 2001 to prevent municipalities from having to deal with frivolous lawsuits.

“I have been having problems with our drains bubbling, and so have our neighbors, for over a year now,” said Brittany.

Alpine Township issued a newsletter that warned people that if there’s a sewage leak, the township isn't necessarily liable.

FOX 17 News talked to Alpine Township and North Kent Sewer Authority. They said the problem was fixed that day. It was a pipe clogged by grease and rags. North Kent Sewer Authority says those are things that should never be flushed. They also claim they were unaware of any problems prior to the leak itself.

“It’s sewage water. It's disgusting,” said Brittany. "Would they want to go back and live there? Because I don't."

Kenneth and Brittany are filing a claim, and York Creek is doing the same, so any kind of compensation is still up in the air.

North Kent Sewer Authority took over maintaining the pipes for Alpine Township in 2012.