Property Manager Addresses Rundown Rentals In Vermillion

Investigates

“I just opened the door to the bedroom this morning, today is May 2nd. It looks like the ceiling has fallen through,” Pistulka said.

You’ve seen the video of this rundown rental in Vermillion.  One tenant has been dealing with problems like this caved in ceiling all year long.

Tonight we have an update to our KELOLAND News investigation into rental properties in the college town. 

Graduate Student Merideth Pistulka took our news camera on a tour of her rental home on Prospect Street in Vermillion last weekend showed us a number of code violations, as well as health and safety hazards. 

After that story aired, we were contacted by a man who rented that same house on Prospect Street back in 1999 and he tells me, not much has changed, other than the landlord.

Eric Holmes now lives in Portland, Oregon, but back in 1999, when he as a student at USD, he took these pictures of the condition of his rental house, which he says was full of garbage and code violations when they moved in.  


“The pictures I sent you don’t really do it enough justice, the things that we encountered. I thought for sure it would have fallen into the earth by now,” Holmes said.

Holmes is shocked by what hasn’t changed in the home. 

“Funny thing about the door upstairs, the sliding, crinkle accordion door–there wasn’t a door then either,” Holmes said.

Holmes and his roommates moved out five months later, after a plumbing problem left them without hot water. 

“This has been broken forever,” Blomberg said.

Fast forward to 2016 and current student Maren Blomberg says college kids are still forced to deal with rundown rentals. 

“There’s a crack right there, so you have to hold it shut,” Blomberg said.

Blomberg shows us some of the problems in this Vermillion home, like this step:

“It’s just cracked,”

“Have you ever tripped on it?” Angela asked.

“Yes, with socks especially,” Blomberg said.

You can see water damage in the basement and then there’s a deck with rotted floorboards breaking through.

“And they should be taken care of because they are safety issues.  It’s not safe,” Blomberg said.

Blomberg and her four roommates pay $1,500 a month in rent for the home, which is managed by Dakota Realty, the same company as the house on Prospect.

“We can only fix the problems we know about,” Bye said.

Owner Hazen Bye agreed to sit down with us and answer our questions about both properties.  Bye says he fixed up the one on Prospect after it had been condemned.

“We can’t move anybody in unless it’s up to code. The City okayed it to be a rental,” Bye said.

But after she moved in, current tenant Merideth Pistulka complained to the city, which inspected the home and found 8 different code violations.

Angela Kennecke: “Well that accordion door wasn’t up to code? “
Bye:  “Well, yes it was at one time, because they went back and okayed everything. All those things were done prior to her moving in.

What about that leaky roof?

“It’s hard to fix a roof in the middle of winter when snow is on it,” Bye said.

Other things were more cosmetic, like the shoddy workmanship when new kitchen cabinets were installed.

“So they’re not safety issues, they just never got finished,” Bye said.

AK “Why not? 

“Just never went back and put up the finished work because we didn’t know if she was going to stay,” bye said.

Other than the water pouring in from the roof, Bye says this home is fit to live in. 

AK: Hazen would you want to live there?

“We put the brand new carpet, we did everything there. I could live there actually Angela. You did a pretty good job. I didn’t expect 7 inches of rain in one day, nobody expected 7 inches of rain,” Bye said.

Bye says Dakota Realty has 400 properties it manages and if it weren’t keeping its properties up to code, they wouldn’t be rented.

“We’ve never been shut down. We’ve always followed every code that the city of Vermillion has enforced,” Bye said.

Bye tells us the repairs will be made to Prospect by the end of this week.  He also says he has fixed all four code violations the city found in the Dartmouth Property in its 2014 inspection. It will be up for inspection again at the end of this year.

Bye Real Estate, a company that Hazen Bye owns with his sister, is one of more than a dozen landlords who sued the city of Vermillion over new rental codes requiring hard-wired smoke detector, egress windows and separate heating and cooling systems for each residence  on a property.  Last month a judge ruled in the city’s favor. 

KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke will have details on that lawsuit that’s been going through the court system for two years, along with an interview with Vermillion’s City Manager about getting landlords to follow the rules tomorrow night on KELOLAND News.

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