HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - At least one person seems to have her heat back.
Huntsville Housing Authority promised to look into the situation, and they have. The public relations manager says a work order was placed and completed Wednesday morning for the heating problem in Lindsey Bentley's apartment.
The public relations manager also said that the thermostat was in "good working condition" and set at their standard temperature of 74 degrees. They added that Bentley was "re-oriented" on how to adjust the thermostat to her comfort.
When WHNT News 19 spoke with Bentley Wednesday afternoon, she confirmed they came to fix the thermostat but that it had not kicked on yet. The maintenance person told her that would happen once the temperature dropped below 74 degrees.
WHNT News 19 also spoke with her grandfather who alerted us to the problem. He believes the thermostat was not connected to the system but is now hopeful the problem is solved for his granddaughter.
The Huntsville Housing Authority has yet to respond concerning maintenance visiting the other apartments in question.
Some residents at Johnson Towers, a Huntsville Housing Authority property in Huntsville, say they have been without heat so far this winter.
Lindsey Bentley says she is using her oven to warm her home as she lives without her apartment's baseboard heating.
"The heat doesn't come out, no matter what you do," she explained.
We measured the temperature and touched the baseboard heaters, but they were not warm.
Bentley worries this problem will take a toll on her health, which is something she is already used to monitoring: she uses oxygen.
"It's aggravating, especially with my health problems. My immune system isn't the best, so I have been keeping a cough," explained Bentley.
She told WHNT News 19 she called for help from maintenance, and someone did come up to show her how to use the thermostat. Still, she said no heat comes out despite her best efforts. She has called again since then.
And she is not the only resident we spoke with who reports these problems. Neighbors tell us they, too, have no heat this year and have tried reporting it to Johnson Towers and HHA for help.
"Everybody's been having to use their ovens to heat their apartments," Bentley explained. "I could leave it on for days. I do turn it off if I leave, but other than that it stays on."
The oven still isn't very effective at heating her home, though. The apartment is small and this method, Bentley explained, can be inefficient. It was 80 degrees on the thermostat when we visited her apartment, but she said it can still get cold at night.
As temperatures dip below freezing this week, she is seeking relief.
Bentley's grandfather, Samuel Bentley, said he can not stand seeing his granddaughter live hot-and-cold like this without properly regulated heating.
"I worry about her. She's in and out of the hospital. This is not healthy. Having to run an oven on an electric stove to keep the place warm is stupid. And it's dangerous," he noted. "I called Senator Strange. I called Congressman Mo Brooks's office."
He even called us at WHNT News 19 for help.
"Who else are you going to call?" he asked. "That way, everybody gets to look at it."
He says he will keep calling people until he gets her the help she needs.
"I will keep bugging people until somebody does something," he stated.
WHNT News 19 contacted the Huntsville Housing Authority, which oversees Johnson Towers. A public relations employee responded to our email, saying that she has forwarded it along to a supervisor. She added later that she would check on the situation, but would not have an update in time for our 10 PM newscast, when this story aired on TV.
Meanwhile, we checked Huntsville Housing Authority policy, which you can find here. There is a section about emergency repairs, and what tenants/the HHA must do when something goes wrong:
Emergency Repairs [24 CFR 966.4(h)] If the unit is damaged to the extent that conditions are created which are hazardous to the life, health, or safety of the occupants, the resident must immediately notify HHA of the damage, and HHA must make repairs within a reasonable time frame. If the damage was caused by a household member or guest, HHA must charge the family for the reasonable cost of repairs. HHA may also take lease enforcement action against the family. If HHA cannot make repairs quickly, HHA must offer the family standard alternative accommodations. If HHA can neither repair the defect within a reasonable time frame nor offer alternative housing, rent shall be abated in proportion to the seriousness of the damage and loss in value as a dwelling. Rent shall not be abated if the damage was caused by a household member or guest, or if the resident rejects the alternative accommodations.
The policy goes on to list conditions that would be considered hazardous to life, health, or safety. It includes being without heat when outside temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In that case, it states HHA will make repairs or otherwise abate the situation within 24 hours.
If repairs can not be made in a reasonable time, HHA must offer standard alternative accommodations or transfer residents:
The following are considered an emergency circumstance warranting an immediate transfer of the tenant or family:
Maintenance conditions in the resident’s unit, building or at the site that pose an immediate, verifiable threat to the life, health or safety of the resident or family members that cannot be repaired or abated within 24 hours. Examples of such unit or building conditions would include: a gas leak; no heat in the building during the winter; no water; toxic contamination; and serious water leaks.
Bentley said what she wants is just to see a solution, or she may have to start looking to find another place to live.
"I want it to get fixed," she said. "I mean, we have to have heat. It's kind of mandatory."
WHNT News 19 is taking action and will follow through with HHA officials about what is being done about Bentley's request for maintenance.