Tenants forced to move on after landlord abandons their building

Tenants in an apartment building in Elkhart were forced to find new housing after the landlord apparently quit paying utility bills.
Posted on July 31, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on July 31, 2013 at 7:08 p.m.

ELKHART — Tenants sensed a problem with their Kinzy Street apartment building when the grass was no longer being cut and then realized it was more serious when gas service was shut off a few weeks ago.

Tenants and several city officials point to the landlord as the source of the problem.

Tenants were told they had to vacate the building by Thursday, Aug. 1, when water service would be shut off after the landlord failed to pay the bill, said Mayor Dick Moore.

Tenants at 1313 Kinzy St. did not want to put the water bill in their names, which left city officials with no alternative but to cut off service, Moore said.

Action by the city at the apartment building — which includes an address of 1313 Kinzy St., — comes weeks after officials began hearing of complaints that the landlord had essentially walked away from the property.

The two-story building includes four apartments and residents have spent the last few days figuring out where they will move.

As of Monday, two of the apartments were still occupied.

The landlord was responsible for utilities but apparently fell behind on water and gas payments.

Gas service was shut off several weeks ago. As a result, some of the tenants have been using outdoor grills to prepare meals.

The lack of warning or coordination by the landlord left tenants and other frustrated.

“It was definitely not done in the best interests of the tenants,” said city councilman Ron Troyer, whose district includes Kinzy Street.

City officials and tenants says the landlord was Marlowe E. Yoder.

Tenants say Yoder worked out of an office a block away on Indiana Avenue called J&M Rentals.

Attempts by The Truth to reach Yoder repeatedly through several phone numbers failed.

Troyer said he believes the former landlord owned numerous properties in his district, and that other tenants were left with similar circumstances.

In some situations, though, tenants in other apartments were willing to put utilities in their names, Moore said.

Moore called the action of the landlord “heartless.”

“In this case the former owner, who I understand has filed bankruptcy, was selling it to Mr. Yoder and Mr. Yoder just walked away from the deal, leaving the tenants high and dry,” Moore said in an email to The Truth.

The turn of events left residents shocked and unsure where to turn, said Carolyn Gibson, who has lived in her apartment for the past six years.

“I haven’t seen him since the last time I paid rent in June. He told us to put the electric bill in our name. I asked why and he never told me.” Gibson said.

Gibson never did pay her July rent and is unsure if she’ll ever get her $200 deposit back.

Jason Moreno, a community organizer with LaCasa Inc., looked into the plight of the tenants and was able to find housing for a family with several children in a ground-level apartment. They’ll be moving to the Roosevelt Center Apartments, which is just a block away from Kinzy.

They were busy packing Wednesday afternoon.

Moreno said he offered to help Gibson, who said she had applied for housing at an apartment complex and was still waiting.

Moreno said the building has a roof problem and sewage was backed up in the basement.

Truth intern Emily Duchon contributed to this story.

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