While the number of families and police involvement at Stone's property may be unusual, city inspectors often declare dwellings uninhabitable, Harmon said.
"One thing I don't understand is why people are so surprised at this. We post houses regularly, two or three a week. Houses don't have water; the water company can shut them off for nonpayment. They don't have heat; they can't stay in 26-degree weather.
"Usually we get a call from the tenant, or even from a neighbor -- 'I've seen them carry 5-gallon buckets of water into the building. I think you need to check.'
"We do have families displaced fairly often because of unsafe conditions. But in a lot of cases they've called us to begin with. They're getting ready to move out and want to show us the conditions."
Condemnations are an entirely different situation, Harmon said.
"If a property is condemned, it's ready to fall down and we can proceed to getting it torn down."
On rare occasions, an inspection can lead directly to condemnation. "On Watts Street, six years ago. I got a call: the walls were bowing out. We did an inspection."
Water had been leaking in for years, and the house was structurally unsafe.
"We got all the tenants out," he said. "We condemned the property and had it torn down."
While Charleston has plenty of responsible landlords who take pride in keeping their apartments in good shape, Harmon suspects there are plenty of places like the one on Jackson Street.
"We have very old housing stock on the West Side and East End. People don't want to put money in them. Once an elderly person dies, it's probably going to be turned into a rental unit.
"It's frustrating to me because we're out here, beating ourselves to death, doing good. If we hadn't inspected that apartment, there could have been a fire and there could have been a fatality.
"We can't control how people act. It's frustrating because the media wants to focus on what we're not doing.
"But overall, I'm tickled to death this place has been shut down. We've gotten a lot of complaints about it. He can't put people back in until it's right. It will probably take a lot of money to do it -- proper heat in each unit, working bathrooms, working kitchens. It will probably cost a couple thousand dollars just to get the infestation out."
The apartment registration system is working, slowly, he said.
"We found this out. We didn't know how bad it was until we got in there."
Staff writer Travis Crum contributed to this report.
Reach Jim Balow at ba...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.