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Landlord who shut off tenants’ water for 38 days tells his side of the story

Posted at 10:17 PM, Jul 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-30 22:17:02-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—A mother and 4 children went 38 days without water. They say their landlord is to blame. They claim the same landlord demanded the city keep the water off.

Jose Trujillo, the landlord of a Prospect Street duplex in Grand Rapids, told Fox 17 News he owns six properties that he has been renting out for the last 13 to 14 years. He says the reason the water got turned off is because the women didn’t pay their water bill.

The two tenants who live in the duplex are Lynette Zavala and Sasha Alvarez-Palaez. Sasha showed Fox 17 News her lease. She said Trujillo gave her a copy of the original, and when she signed it there was no mention of her being responsible for water. However, Trujillo showed us his copy and it had “water” hand written in in blue pen under the utilities section. Palaez claims it is altered.

Both Zavala and Alvarez-Palaez say Trujillo never gave them a water bill until 9 months later, 4 days before the city said they were shutting off their water.

The last time Fox 17 News talked with Alvarez-Palaez she had her water turned back on in her rented duplex after 38 days. Her landlord Jose Trujillo agreed to speak with us on Thursday. He told us the reason the water was shut off was because the women neglected to pay for their water bill which they knew they were responsible for.

Fox 17 News also asked him why his lease and Alvarez-Palaez lease was different. He claims that she altered the original lease.

“His copy is exactly the copy I have but the only difference is his has water hand written on his lease, and mine doesn’t. I’m not sure how I could have altered the lease if I don’t have something that he has hand-written on his,” said Alvarez-Palaez.

Alvarez-Palaez and Zavala say the story doesn’t end there. Both women contend  that Trujillo never gave them a water bill for several months, and when he did give them a bill it was too late before the city shut off their water. Then when they offered to pay to get it back on, Trujillo told the city to leave the water off in an attempt to evict them.

“We don’t have a problem paying the bill, but when we don’t get a bill, what are we supposed to do?”

The city water department did confirm the landlord requested the water stay off. Trujillo had 5 complaints with the city, two are still opened as of Thursday, and a fine for $265 according to Code Compliance.

Trujillo told us that Alvarez-Palaez goes straight to the city with her problems instead of asking him to fix it first. Alvarez-Palaez said the reason she goes to the city is because he won’t respond to her requests. Zavala had similar experience. She’s not even been living in the duplex for a year yet, and she’s been to court more that you can count on all your fingers and toes. Zavala told Fox 17 News she has been to court with Trujillo 28 times.

Fox 17 News obtained a document from 61st District Court showing some of the cases. Most of the cases had to do with payment discrepancies and eviction attempts. All of the cases except for one listed on the document, ended in Zavala’s favor. The ladies are counter suing Trujillo’s eviction leaving it up to the courts to decide.

“He should have consequences for what he is doing. If he is doing it to us who else is he really doing it to?”

Both parties agreed on one thing for now. Trujillo doesn’t want to rent to them anbymore, and the ladies are trying to get out of there as soon as they find a new place.