Renters across North Texas are living in their waterlogged homes, damaged during the winter storm three weeks ago.
Repairs they are told will take longer than normal to fix.
A Fort Worth family of five says they have no choice but to remain in their damp apartment.
It has been a soggy three weeks inside the Calvillo family’s home at Mercantile Square Apartments in north Fort Worth.
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They say a frozen pipe in the sprinkler room next door ruptured on February 15.
Water gushed into their apartment for three hours, before firefighters were able to shut off the water valve.
Michael and Ashley Calvillo report frustration at a lack of urgency on the part of their apartment management.
“It took them two weeks for them to even come out with two dehumidifiers,” she said. “The rooms, especially my children’s room which is closest to the wall where the pipe burst, stink horribly of mildew.”
The family opted to drop their renter’s insurance last year when money was tight, and say it is not required in their complex.
“They’re probably going to start [repairs] next week and they’re going to rip out about 90% of the walls,” said Michael Calvillo.
Calvillo, who walks with a cane and says he is disabled, says they have nowhere to go and no money for a hotel when the anticipated three-week repair work begins.
The parents and their three young children, including one who is participating in virtual learning, have been sleeping in their living room.
“It’s affecting our children,” said Ashley. “My youngest, he’s four, he has bad dreams about the water taking his toys away.”
There are some protections in place for renters, regardless of whether they have renter’s insurance.
“The premises have to be safe and no interfere with either the safety or the health of the tenant,” said attorney Jasmit Dhaliwal at the Dallas office of Texas Tenant Rights.
As NBC 5 Responds previously explained: A landlord is required to make repairs in a reasonable amount of time.
That usually means seven days.
Tenants must also do their part and give written notice of their concerns, she said.
It’s important to also be up-to-date on your rent in order to request repairs.
Dhaliwal says there have been instances where apartment communities have allowed tenants affected by flooding to be released from the remainder of their lease terms.
Communication between tenant and landlord is key.
The Calvillo’s say they sent management a written request on Monday asking to be moved into one of the community’s vacant units but have not heard back.
“I know that putting us up in a hotel or moving us is going to cost them time or money, but if it happened to their family, how would they feel,” asked Ashley.
NBC 5 reached out to the Mercantile Square Apartments online and by phone but have not heard back.
The city of Fort Worth’s code enforcement division tells NBC 5 it is investigating this case and is looking for ways to help the family.
A representative with FEMA tells NBC 5 renters, in general, may be eligible for assistance for un-insured personal property losses and disaster-related expenses.
To contact FEMA, online or by calling 1-800-621-3362.
The lines will be in operation seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Tenants can also reach out to legal experts like the State Bar Association, Legal Aid Disaster number: 1-800-621-3362.
Legal Aid of Northwest Texas also has a disaster hotline you can call at 1-855-548-8457.