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Condemned East End apartment was never inspected

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston building inspectors said an apartment on the city's East End condemned Thursday for bug infestations and unsafe conditions had never been inspected.

Charleston's new inspection program is only one year old. That program requires an initial inspection of all rental properties and requires random follow-up inspections every two years.

However, there's a large backlog in rental units needing inspected. For the approximately 10,000 rental properties in the city, a little more than half are registered, Charleston Building Commissioner Tony Harmon said.

Tenants complained about the living conditions at 1411 Jackson St. to the landlord for a long time, but nothing was done until someone complained to the Building Commission on Thursday, Harmon said.

Inspectors found an infestation of rats, cockroaches and lice in all of the apartment's seven units, Harmon said. They saw that many units didn't have working heating units or smoke detectors. All units were also closed with padlocks on the outside and inside. Many tenants shared a kitchen, a bathtub and one toilet.

Inspectors immediately closed the building and cited the landlord, Timothy Harold Stone, 44, with 13 violations of the International Property Maintenance Code, Harmon said.

The 15 people living there must now find new places to live by Monday. Inspectors posted signs on every unit's door condemning it for unsafe conditions.

If officials had given the building an initial inspection, they might have noticed some of the deplorable conditions, Harmon said.

But inspectors are prevented sometimes from entering apartments without permission of the landlord and tenants.

That building never came up for a random inspection either. Inspectors average about 50 or 60 random inspections a week, Harmon said.

Inspectors were called there twice in recent years for complaints of garbage and debris outside, but no tenant would let inspectors come in, he said.

Harmon wasn't sure if Stone registered the building, and inspectors were only aware of six of the seven units there.

Charleston Police Lt. Shawn Williams said the apartment is the worst he's seen in 15 years as an officer.

Officers have been called to that building about 1,000 times over the years for complaints of drugs and prostitution, Williams said.

After inspectors issued citations Thursday, Stone allegedly became combative and brandished a screwdriver at police.

Stone was charged with battery on a police officer, brandishing a weapon and a second offense of carrying a concealed weapon. Police said they also found a 10-inch open switchblade knife on him.

Stone was cited because his building had no heating source, a rodent infestation, no stair handrails, multiple holes in walls, unsanitary conditions, electrical hazards, fire hazards, no smoke alarms, roach infestations, no proper area for food preparation and one apartment had a ceiling below 7 feet.

Inspectors gave the tenants a list of apartments and shelters they could call. If the tenants can't find a place, inspectors would connect them to the Red Cross, Harmon said.

Stone has 21 days to correct the issues related to the citations or he would be taken to municipal court, where he would face a $5,000 per citation. The building would then be handed over to the city for demolition.

Stone was being held Friday in South Central Regional Jail in lieu of a $150,000, or 10 percent cash, bail.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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