Your renters rights in Hampton Roads

Posted at 9:11 PM, Jan 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-19 23:24:44-05

NORFOLK, Va. - A mom and her young daughters are afraid they will be homeless after their landlord allowed the electricity to be cut off and it's not because she didn't pay the bill. News 3 spoke to an attorney about to find out what rights tenants have and what you need to do to make sure you're protected.

Jasmine Wilkins says she rents the top floor apartment with two bedrooms and a bathroom in a house off Indian River Road in Norfolk. It was home for her and her two young daughters until the power went out.

"I called my landlord and he tells me on Friday of last week the lights would be on on Tuesday of next week," said Wilkins.

When News 3 visited the house, there were two signs saying the house was under a code and zone violation. The house is deemed unsafe and unfit for living and multiple units were in the house without zoning approval.

Wilkins is now living in a hotel and said her landlord won't give her any of her money back, even though she paid for rent through February early.

"I put my trust into being a good tenant. Paying him early so he can keep things right but when you're just like no, you're not getting anything back, your kids are going to be out on the street cold," said Wilkins.

Attorney Kirk Levy said tenants have ways to protect themselves.

“If a landlord doesn't fulfill their obligations a tenant has rights and those rights start with writing. They have to notify the landlord of the breach or obligation they didn’t fulfill. After notifying the landlord in writing, they have to give the landlord a reasonable opportunity to cure the breach," said Levy.

Levy stressed all forms of communication have to be written.

"If it's not in writing, it does not count. Almost every lease says notices have to be in writing," said Levy.

Now, Wilkins is left worrying about where to live. She said all the shelters she'd called are full.

"I'm scared we will be on the corner like everyone else or all them other families and we don't deserve that because I work hard for my kids, you know?"

Wilkins has set up a GoFundMe page. She is hoping to find a place to live within the next few days.

News 3 reached out to the landlord Harold Ferebee and asked if the power was cut off in the house. He said yes. When News 3 asked why, he declined to comment.