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Family says landlord neglects to fix furnace during record cold temperatures

Posted at 10:28 PM, Feb 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-15 22:28:31-05

SPARTA, Mich.-- With temps hitting record breaking lows, most people are trying to stay warm inside and turn up the heat. However, one Sparta family claims their landlord has failed to fix their furnace for months.

Jeffrey Gravelyn and Michelle Abramson asked their landlord to take care of the problem time and time again, but they say they saw no progress. Instead, they were served a notice to quit, which essentially is asking them to leave the premises in one month's time.

Abramson and her boyfriend , Gravelyn , said they have lived in the rental home in Sparta with their 10-year-old child for a decade with very few problems.

“I’ve got a pair of long johns on, and three pairs of socks, and thermal winter pants on to keep warm,” said Gravelyn. Gloves and blankets are stacked all throughout the rooms in Gravelyn and Abramson’s home.

The couple believes they are have some tenant rights.

“He (the landlord) has done nothing professionally about getting it done,” said Abramson, "He came Friday this weekend, and he went down with his brother and messed around with the furnace and still couldn’t get it working."

The couple started keeping a log of every time their landlord came to fix the heat and was unsuccessful and a record with every conversation and every excuse they were given.

They even bought electric heaters for the time being . Not only is that a safety hazard, it’s also burning a hole in their pocket, the couple says.

“Our electric usage has gone up 96 percent and way higher than any house of this size should be using,” says Gravelyn. Electricity costs them about $600 a month compared to their $450 rent, they say. But instead of making repairs, they say, their landlord proposed a different solution: an eviction.

“ [The landlord] says that this house needs so much work that he is unable to do this work while we are in here,” says Abramson.

Abramson and Gravelyn say they don’t have money to get up and move, so the landlord negotiated with them. According to the couple, the landlord said they can stay until May, but they have to continue to pay rent despite all the repairs that need to be made.

Abramson and Gravelyn said it’s a "lose-lose" situation for them. FOX 17 News went to get some answers from the landlord. He wasn’t at his home, but we ran into a relative who lives next door who claims to have helped that landlord make repairs on the property. The relative denies that Abramson and Gravelyn have been living without heat for months. And he said the furnace is in the process of getting fixed.

FOX 17 News made a phone call to the landlord himself, but he has not returned our call as of Sunday night.

According to Michigan Law, tennants have certaub rights. The 1968 warranty of habitability states that a rental unit must be kept in reasonable repair, otherwise tenants are allowed to withhold rent. Abramson and Gravelyn say that even if they can stay, it might not be in their best interest.

“I’m very concerned for our health and well-being, for one thing,” said Gravelyn.
Abramson and Gravelyn say they tried to have Kent County inspect the property, but they say the county won't do it unless the property is new. They say that means there’s no one to hold the landlord accountable for his failure to make repairs.

If you’re looking to rent a property and have questions about your tenant rights, head to Michigan Legal Aid’s website.