TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - A Toledo family was left living in a basement for two months after discovering the house they rented was not in the condition advertised.
Rick and Beth Lemon describe it as a nightmare: Pet urine, mold, peeling paint, and exposed wires was just some of what they say they found in a house they rented off Craigslist. That left the Army veteran, his wife, two sons, and dogs living in his mom's Sylvania basement for two months.
The family was previously living 2,400 miles away in Washington while Rick wrapped up his Army service. They knew they wanted to move back to northwest Ohio and found a place on Craigslist just blocks away from their old house in Old Orchard.
"We felt pretty safe renting there based on the pictures and what we knew of the neighborhood," Rick said. "I literally used to run past that house."
But when the Lemons arrived at the house the first week in July, what they say they found was a far cry from the Craigslist ad.
"We're walking in and it was just not what the pictures depicted," Rick explained. "There were stains and holes and pet urine everywhere and paint on the hardwood floors. The hardwood floors were really torn up. So immediately upon walking in, in my head I'm thinking, 'We're in trouble. This isn't good.'"
The Lemons say they paid $1,600 in a security deposit to Chris Mackey from Two Boys Properties to hold the house while they were still in Washington, and the same amount for first month's rent when they got to town.
"It was very obvious no one cleaned anything," Rick said. "I mean, they moved out and that was it. So there was however many years of dirt left behind waiting for us."
Immediately the Lemons say they sent Mackey a text telling him they were there and concerned because the place needed cleaned.
"I think what tipped the scales for me was when I saw the baseboards were covered in pet urine," Rick recalled. "I sent him another text message and I said, 'I can't live here.'"
Two days later, the Lemons returned the keys back to Mackey, who offered to refund $800 of their $3,200. They returned the keys but refused the money because they wanted the full amount.
That's when they hired an attorney who gave Mackey a timeline to return the money or face legal action.
In Ohio, it's the landlord's responsibility to make all repairs and do whatever is reasonably necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.
Call 11 for Action took this case to attorney George Thomas at Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) to see what tenants who experience similar issues should do.
Thomas says if you're renting and have an issue, you should make a list of the big things a landlord needs to resolve. Then give that to the landlord in writing, asking the repairs be done in a reasonable amount of time. That's usually 30 days.
If the landlord fails to remedy the conditions at that point, then certain options kick in for the tenant, most typically escrowing rent. It could also include just terminating the lease and moving out.
The Lemons say they saw the ad back up on Craigslist on July 4, and it was still up two weeks later on July 22.
That afternoon, Emilie Voss called Chris Mackey twice and left him one voicemail. He never called back, but about an hour later the ad was gone from Craigslist.
Rick reached out the next day to let Call 11 for Action know that after more than a week of not responding, Mackey had contacted the Lemons' attorney to talk. The attorney was eventually able to get all $3,200 back.
Emilie did reach Mackey on the phone in September, but he refused to comment on the situation.
"There's not a thread of doubt in my mind that you absolutely played a role in getting my money back," Rick said when Emilie met up with him as he moved his family into their new house in Sylvania.
He says he's happy to be out of his mom's basement.
"It all worked out in the end."
ABLE and Legal Aid Line have a booklet available on your rights and duties as a tenant. If you would like a copy, call 888-534-1432 or visit ablelaw.org
If you feel you were the victim of a scam, fraud or rip off, contact Call 11 for Action for help.