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Bargersville renters suddenly homeless after electrical problems

An electrical problem with their apartments on SR 144 led to a temporary hotel stay that was supposed to last through December.

BARGERSVILLE, Ind. — Nearly a dozen Bargersville renters suddenly learned over the weekend that they’re homeless.

An electrical problem with their apartments on SR 144 led to a temporary hotel stay that was supposed to last through December.

But the apartments haven’t been fixed yet and they just got word a couple days ago they had to move out.

And now, no hotel either.

13News met up with Julie and Jodi on their unexpected moving day. Packing up their stuff from their temporary hotel was forced – not planned.

They say they learned the news from the hotel’s front desk and then their landlord on Friday.

“They said two days, two days to find someplace to live,” said renter Julie Christy. “As late as last Thursday, they said we had until December the 3rd. And we found out Friday, a day later, that we have to be out in two days.”

It’s affecting everyone in the small apartment complex, nearly a dozen families, including Sarah Hildebrand, her husband and their two toddlers, who now plan to stay with her mom temporarily.

“My daughter, she doesn’t understand,” Hildebrand said, tearing up. “She just wants to go home. I just said, ‘The house has a boo boo, so they’re trying to fix it.’ But I don’t understand why it isn’t fixed, why it’s taking so long. And then not knowing what we’ll do if we can’t, like … because finding a place to rent right now is extremely hard and it’s pricey.”

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Here’s what led to the problem:

In September, Bargersville Utilities says a contractor, Ampp Electric, was working on a transformer behind the apartment complex. The utility says the contractor used the wrong voltage and sent a surge through the complex.

“And it blew out our furnace, our hot water heater, our appliances,” Christy said.

So the landlord moved tenants into a hotel during repairs.

But that electrical issue in September led to an insurance squabble in October and now in November, there’s still no fix.

The landlord’s wife told 13News by phone they’re in a tough spot because insurance won’t pay for a hotel anymore.

So residents are left in the lurch.

But experts say Indiana landlords do have obligations, called a warranty of habitability.

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Michael Hurst practices housing law with Indiana Legal Services. He can’t speak to this particular situation in Bargersville, but said, generally, renters do have the right to sue, if a lease or state law is violated.

“They can’t just kick everyone out and avoid liability for doing so when doing so breaches the condition of the lease or condition of the state law,” Hurst said. “If the landlord doesn’t fix it within a specific time, typically it’s 30 days, then the tenant has a right of action that they can bring against the landlord for money damages.”

In court, tenants could potentially recover money spent on hotel stays, transportation and applications for new apartments.

“Now, that doesn’t much help somebody who needs a place to go tomorrow,” Hurst said. 

“I’m frustrated,” Christy said. “I’ve tried to call the landlord and they haven’t answered the phone.”

“It’s the not knowing when we’ll be able to go home,” Hildebrand added.

For now, these tenants say they have no home, no answers and no idea when they can move back.

We did reach out to Bargersville Utilities, who told us they were not aware the landlord told tenants to leave the hotel.

The town’s utilities says it’s now investigating what it can do to speed up the insurance process and help those residents out.

Hurst also suggested resources for renters in difficult situations like this: calling 211, contacting the Red Cross or local churches for help with shelter.

Plus, he said, check with your renters insurance company. 

“Sometimes that insurance will cover a hotel stay if the landlord is not covering it,” he said.

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