Narrows, VA: A disabled mother and her young child find themselves huddled around a tiny space heater in the living room of their rental unit owned by RGR Properties. The furnace has been broken for months during this winter, leaving the family struggling to stay warm, having to resort to using the oven as a heat source.
As they walk into the kitchen the child trips and falls due to the sinking floor, which is a result of rotting floor joists. This isn’t the first time they’ve been injured due to the sinking floors. The family applied for a HUD voucher only to be turned down because the unit failed HUD inspection. The landlord, Robert Givens, had refused to make the necessary repairs to meet HUD safety standards. The family says this isn’t the first property Givens has provided to them with safety issues. Their last unit had a crumbling foundation.
As New River Tenants Union inspectors toured the property they discovered in the basement the severity of the problem. Major water leakage from the bathroom pools at the base of the steps leading into the basement, floor insulation falling off and covered with white and black mold, floor joists also molding and rotting with piles of rotted woodchips on the dirt ground underneath them, there are even ferns growing in the basement. On the outside of the unit there are multiple holes into the basement and the roof which birds nest in and which the family can hear the birds rutting in the walls of the unit.
On February 19th New River Tenants Union sent a certified letter with the photo evidence above to RGR Properties to provide notice for repairs. Givens has taken no action to make repairs, pushing the family to leave before their lease ended this coming May. The family is fed up with the property and Givens refusal to provide safe housing as defined by the VRLTA (Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act). They wanted to make sure no other working family would be put in their unsafe unit.
As the pictures show this unit needs to be condemned, but when New River Tenants Union called the Giles County Building Inspectors and scheduled an inspection to condemn the unit they failed to follow through. The community needs to be aware of these unsafe and dangerous units across the New River Valley. We cannot count on government authorities to represent our interests. With the help of New River Tenants Union the family has now been moved into a HUD-approved housing complex.