Renters will be out of a North Knoxville apartment complex for at least a week and a half.
Firefighters evacuated the apartments in Inskip Tuesday, leaving more than 20 people without a home.
An anonymous caller tipped off investigators about code violations at Crestview Apartments on Scheel Road. Further inspection revealed a string of safety problems authorities labeled life-threatening, including electrical problems, smoke detectors that don't work, and damaged stairwells.
The caller highlighted the fire alarm system was disabled, and that some tenants were running extension cords to supply electricity.
Since 2007, code enforcement has been there more than 50 times for non-life threatening violations. Now, residents are at a temporary shelter.
"Our hearts go out to the folks who were living there in those conditions. It's not their fault. It's not their fault. I put the blame, the responsibility on the owner of the building. He should have been taking care of those things," said DJ Corcoran with the Knoxville Fire Department.
The inspection report stated that Byron Beeler is the landowner. Tenants say he was also the landlord.
Some of the issues they noticed were missing and damaged concrete on the steps, balusters missing, an eight-foot crack on one of the walls, the roof was sagging in the rear of the building, there were no gutters, many windows were busted, and there were numerous leaks throughout the building.
Almost every category was checked for "Major Repair."
There is legal recourse the tenants can look into.
It's known as "renter's rights," and it's for any tenant anywhere.
Terry Woods with the Legal Aid of East Tennessee says if the landlord doesn't make repairs after you asked them to, you have a couple options. You could deduct the cost from rent or the landlord can pay rent for a substitute housing. In this specific case, they can sue the landlord either for money for the damages or for an injunction to push to fix up the place.
"For a tenant, if the landlord is not providing the services required, the property is in bad condition, not in compliance of the building code, then the tenant needs to put that in writing. Describe what the problem is, give the landlord 14 days to fix it, and make sure they keep a copy of whatever they have given to the landlord so they can document that they gave that notice," said Woods.
Beeler has a scheduled meeting with the city on March 28th. This is a confirmation hearing. They could decide at this meeting whether the building can be repaired, or needs to come down.
If there are life threatening problems at a place you rent, contact the local inspection office immediately.