DETROIT (WJBK) - The City of Detroit has launched a new initiative to keep renters safe - but it didn't come soon enough for the tenants living in an apartment building on Appoline. Earlier this week the City said it's shutting down the apartment building down, forcing several tenants out.
The owner is saying the City, though, is to blame for the building's unlivable conditions. Right now, a filthy pool of storm and waste water sits in the basement.
"I've called the water department every single day. I've got recorded phone conversations. Recorded conversations with people in the field," says the owner, Shawn Reed.
The water compromised the building's electric service, the heat in the tenants' apartments and made the building uninhabitable. The city had residents move out for their own safety.
Reed claims the demolition of city-owned buildings next door to the apartments damaged plumbing underground, causing not only his basement to flood and but making it impossible for that water to drain.
"My thought is it's gross negligence on the part of the Detroit water department. I have filed claims. I have provided the water department with all the documentation, with all the evidence. After six months of waiting for a response to that claim, they came back and said denied," Reed says.
But now, the City of Detroit is not entirely ruling it out.
The water department will determine if anything on the city's side is keeping this water from draining, and if the source of the flooding is inside or outside of the building. The Building Safety Engineering and Environmental Department says Reed still had an obligation to pump the standing water out of the building before it did so much damage.
The fight over who's at fault comes as Detroit cracks down on landlords who let their properties languish while collecting rent from tenants.
"There are far too many people who are living in buildings like this, where, we know that you've got a landlord who is getting rent while people are living in terrible conditions," says Alexis Wiley, Chief of Staff in Detroit.
Under the city's new plan, tenants in five zip codes will be able to put their rent in escrow if landlords don't pass property inspections. By August 1, renters in the five selected zip codes - 48215, 48224, 48223, 48219, 48209 and 48210 will be able to check a city run website to see if their landlords are giving what's promised.
Reed, though, says some of his renters stopped paying rent a while ago -- and that he's no slumlord. He says he gave residents a heads up of what was coming down the pipe back in November.
"I told these people please get your affairs in order; I've got to close the building. This is low-income housing. The last thing I wanted to do was serve people eviction papers and make it hard on them and make it hard on their record," Reed says.
Reed says the damage to this building may be well into the six figures.
As for his tenants, he and the City of Detroit say they're helping them find temporary housing.
They city will shutdown the apartment building on Friday.