Housing Horrors Part I

By: Erica Hurtt
By: Erica Hurtt

Anyone who's rented an apartment knows there are some bad deals out there. Whether it's a landlord who doesn't fix a leaky faucet, or fighting to get your deposit back.

Whether it's private or public housing there are always pitfalls when renting. Clarice Williams says her apartment was hazardous to her health.

Coughing fits and asthma attacks plagued Clarice Williams for months, while living in this apartment on Rockford’s south east side.

"It's coughing, throwing up, vomiting, can't catch your breath. It's something burning in your throat,” says renter Clarice Williams.

The culprit, toxic mold growing under ceiling tiles in Clarice son's bedroom. Emitting a rancid smell and triggering the Rockford mother's asthma.

"Every time I smell this smell I have to run to the emergency room and get help,” says Williams.

The problem started after a fall rainstorm caused the roof to leak over her seven-year-old son's bed.

"He's been unable to sleep in his room for three months. He wants to know why his bed was thrown away,” Williams says.

After two months of calls to landlord Clarice says he simply repainted the ceiling tiles. The roof continued to leak and her asthma flared.

"I ask them do we have to die up in here before we get some help? I think the taxpayer would be upset to know this is what they're money is going for,” Williams adds.

Forty-five percent of Clarice's rent is paid with your tax dollars through section eight housing. For her three-bedroom unit on Tenth Street she pays $338, the government sends a check to the landlord for $281.

"It's a partnership between the local housing authorities and landlords in the community, where we have certain requirements that need to be met,” comments Lewis Jordan, the Executive Director Rockford Housing Authority.

Clarice says those needs weren't being met on her section eight rental. Mold wasn't the only problem. She complained of broken windows, exposed wires and plumbing problems.
"Section eight is approving them and they should not be being approved. I'm reaching a lot of dead ends and it's not going anywhere,” Williams says.

Rockford housing officials say they addressed Clarice's problem as quickly as possible.

"We've processed a transfer for the tenant and the landlord is no longer eligible for the program as it related to that unit,” says Jordan.

This year of Rockford’s 1,600 section eight housing units, about 140 have been abated, or removed from the program. But landlord's like Clarice's, who have one unit abated, can still participate in section eight with other properties.

"I really don't think we should get a house here again. I think it will be the same thing,” adds Williams’ daughter, Sonja.

Meanwhile Clarice's story represents the bad and the bad about rental properties. She wasn't exactly the perfect tenant

Wednesday we'll hear more from Clarice’s previous landlord, Brad Carlson and show you the nightmare situation he faced after Clarice vacated the apartment. Housing Authority Director Jordan stresses that this situation is isolated, and not representative of the city's 1,600 section 8 housing units.


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