Woman who refuses to pay rent says it’s her right as a renter

Posted at 10:35 AM, Dec 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-12 11:35:29-05

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Baton Rouge mother reached out to the 9News Alert Team with concerns about her apartment. She says the conditions at the Summer Grove Condominiums on Florida Boulevard are nearly unlivable.

“You don’t care if my daughter gets sick from living in a condition with mold growing on the floor," said Mona Johnson. “You don’t care about any of that.”

Johnson said management has failed to respond to requests to fix the issues. Now, she’s taking matters into her own hands.

"I didn’t pay rent because I feel like this apartment is inhabitable. I’ve had nothing but problems since the day I moved here,” Johnson explained.

She said she’s had multiple issues since moving in her apartment three months ago. However, the biggest issue has been water seeping through the exterior walls into her bedroom. Johnson said she’s lost personal property and she has been living with mold and mildew. Johnson’s counselor said it’s affected her both physically and emotionally.

“From the time she moved here, she has just been depressed and down and staying in the home, not even wanting to go outside to see what it looks like," said Kinyata Smith. "If you want to have a property and you want people to live here and to pay your full rent, you need to be able to do what they ask you to do.

“I know my rights as a tenant as well. I can withhold my rent, you know,” Johnson added.

But is this true? What is the law and what rights do tenants have?

According to an interpretation of Louisiana law, a tenant has the right to deduct the cost of repairs from rent if a landlord fails to meet their obligations and has received prior notice. The tenant has to use the withheld money for the needed repairs and only for a reasonable amount. They do not have the right to remain in the leased home rent-free while waiting for repairs to be completed.

Our 9 News Alert Team has addressed a number of concerns about living conditions at apartments around the city. District 6 Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis said she hopes an ordinance presented in the Metro Council will provide better protection to renters.

SEE ALSO: Mother says family living in unsafe conditions

“For those tenants that are living in housing that is not up to code, that is just not clean, that is just not proper, leaking plumbing, A/C issues," said Collins-Lewis. "There are electrical issues and a lot of times, tenants are afraid to report repairs for fear of being evicted by the landlord.”

This may not be the case for Johnson. We spoke with management officials, who said they have been delayed due to high volume of work orders and they would like to offer her a new unit.

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