A family in LaFayette, Georgia, won’t be hosting photographers from Better Homes and Gardens any time soon. They’re stuck living in a low-income nightmare of serpents slithering out from holes in the ceiling. The landlord says that they shouldn’t be complaining about the rats with all those snakes to take care of them but they’re also sharing the home with cockroaches and bees. The family blames the landlord, who says it’s their problem.
Serpents in the ceiling
One of the local news stations began looking into “the question of responsibility and who is required to clean up the disturbing conditions in the home.” The Pugliese family moved in back in January and they’ve been complaining about the condition it’s in for at least two months.
Landlord Jeff Stafford knows all about the nest of serpents living in the roof but won’t fix it. Stafford claims “they didn’t call him that often and he wasn’t informed about all the issues.”
The family insists they had his phone ringing off the hook but he disagrees. “They mentioned they had contacted me 40 or 50 times,” Stafford explains. “Probably three to five times I’ve talked to them since they’ve lived there.” But he did talk to them and was aware of the serpents.
According to LaFayette City Manager David Hamilton, their best bet is call the Codes Enforcement Department. Once their inspectors see the place they will “bring the issue to court.” The part he doesn’t tell them is that going that route could lead to the family having no home at all.
The way it’s supposed to work, “[The landlord] shows up to court, presents his side of the case,” Hamilton advises. “Our codes enforcement official would present their side of the case and the judge would make a determination as to how to correct, or he may determine there’s not in fact a violation.”
Serpents in the ceiling and rats in the walls would be a violation all right. There would probably be a number of building code violations too, which could lead to the building being condemned. Even if it’s not, the landlord probably doesn’t have the means to make the repairs. Solution, evict the family and let the snakes have the place.
Looking for another way
The Pugliese family didn’t need professional legal advice to come to the same conclusion. The family hasn’t contacted the Codes Enforcement Department and really don’t plan to. They should have checked with a lawyer before they took the course of action they settled on in alternative though.
To protest the slithering serpents, they stopped paying rent. Legal experts groan and clue them in that it “might have left them at a disadvantage.”
Lauren Sudeall, Georgia State associate law professor, explains that serpents or not, “the family should have paid their rent.” In the great state of Georgia, “tenants don’t have too many rights.”
It doesn’t mean that slumlords can get away with murder though. “If the conditions are so bad that it makes the property unlivable,” Sudeall informs, “There may be other arguments that can be made.” There were. The family was evicted.
The landlord then served the humans an eviction notice, giving just one week to move out of the home and stop harassing the serpents.
Meanwhile, the family has been camping with a relative until they find a new home. One not furnished with pets. “I’m dreaming that a snake is going to fall on me. I can’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep last night because of the snakes.”