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Falling Apart: Tenants blame absentee landlord for crumbling home

Posted at 6:01 PM, Apr 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-06 15:03:34-04

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – Since moving into their rented home on Fountain Street last July, Chelsea Flannagan and her family have had nothing but trouble. She admits, it wasn’t exactly a dream home when they moved in, but in less than a year it’s gone from a roof over their heads to barely even that.

Cracked floor tiles, caved in ceilings, missing shingles, potential fire hazards and so much more make the house barely livable. Just last week, Chelsea stepped through the bottom of the bathtub in the home’s only bathroom – leaving her and her family with nowhere to bathe.

Chelsea says her landlord, James Buchino of Lakeside Real Estate, is to blame, and her family is the latest round of tenants to fall victim to his supposed neglect.

“The city’s been involved with him and this has been going on for years,” said Chelsea. “He’s been to court three or four times because he hasn’t fixed them on time.”

After checking with Battle Creek Code Enforcement today, FOX 17 learned that was true. In fact, just this week, Buchino postponed a ‘show cause’ hearing meant to explain why several code notices issued by the city haven’t been complied with.

Buchino spends much of the winter in Arizona, so Chelsea said it was easy for him to put off jobs. Often times, Chelsea said, Buchino would even try to get her to do the work herself.

The lease Chelsea signed as well as Battle Creek Code Enforcement require the landlord to make necessary repairs to a home. Since code enforcement issued the long list of repairs to the property, the work falls to Buchino, whether or not he wants it.

For the time being, Chelsea and her family are without a bathtub or shower. They’re making due for now, and Buchino told her he would be back at the beginning of May, but they can’t wait forever.

Several calls and attempts to reach Buchino by the FOX 17 Problem Solvers went unanswered Wednesday. His court hearing has been rescheduled for after June 1, well after his return to the state.