Couple Ordered From Condemned House Denied Deposit Refund

A Council Bluffs couple has been told they're in danger. The city ordered them to immediately vacate a rental house, though the landlord refuses to return their deposit.

Joe and Renee Morris were forced to move because the city declared their home at 15th Street and 6th Avenue unsafe. “It’s coming down on this side,” said Renee Boyette Morris. “The entire wall is buckling.”

The city ordered the gas line shut off. "When I found out there was a gas line potentially impacted and if we had a leak and that water heater kicked on we'd had a house explosion," said Council Bluffs building official Steve Carmichael.

Council Bluffs has one inspector for 10,000 rentals so landlords self-certify their properties for the city. "Basically, it's an honor system," said Carmichael. In the self-inspection report filed six months ago, the landlord said the foundation was free of defects. "They said it was in compliance and it wasn't in compliance," said Carmichael.

The landlord tells Fact Finders the foundation is not the tenants’ fault, but there will be no $900 deposit refunded because of the general poor condition of the carpets and windows left by the couple. “He wants us to make sure everything is clean on a condemned house, that doesn't make any sense,” said Joe Morris.

The landlord says the house was livable when the Morrises moved in two years ago and self-inspection in December labeled almost everything okay. "It's highly inaccurate," said Renee.

Joe and Renee needed their deposit back for the quick move ordered by the city. They say any wear and tear by them is minor compared to the dangerous condition of the house.

The landlord says a private inspection company passed the property when purchased about eight years ago. He says if it can't be resold to someone who will invest in extensive repairs, the house will likely be torn down.

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