Apartment dwellers live without water for month
Mary Hart-Johnson has two children, 1 and 2 years old, and she is pregnant with her third child. She found a cheap apartment in Beaverton after leaving a bad relationship. But for a month now, she and her children have lived without water.
On Nov. 1, the City of Beaverton shut off water to four buildings, eight rental units at 12800 S.W. Allen Blvd.
According to Holly Thompson, public involvement and communications manager for the Office of the Mayor of Beaverton, these buildings are owned by three different property owners and not owned by the city.
"Over the past 11 years, the property owners have had a long-standing history of failing to make utility payments on a regular basis. The unpaid amount past due to the city is more than $15,000," Thompson said. "The situation is further complicated by the fact that at some point the property, which is one legal lot, was divided into four individual tax lots. This led to the previous property owner selling off properties, resulting in three different owners of the four tax lots."
Thompson said when the tax lots were created, the property owner did not apply to legally divide the lots for land-use purposes and as a result, the four properties continue to share one water line and one sewer line.
The sub-standard living conditions were brought to the attention of the Beaverton Valley Times by Lisa Mentesana of the Beaverton School District, who wrote, "There is currently a duplex community with eight units located on Allen Boulevard. Utilities and Water are included in the rent. The entire complex has been without water since Nov. 1, the City of Beaverton has shut the water off and issued no cause evictions to all of the tenants," Mentesana wrote. "The property owners are in dispute over which owner is responsible for the water. One of the property owners is in foreclosure through U.S. Bank. The City will not turn the water back on until there is an agreement between the property owners on how the water service will be distributed between the owners."
She added that "the tenants and their children are the victims of this bureaucratic decision that is being enforced during the holiday season when school is not in session and children will be home. These are all working families who are struggling to find housing near their work, who have no savings for deposits and have very few options available to them in Beaverton or Washington County."
Seven of the eight units appear to be occupied. The rent for each two-bedroom unit costs about $800 per month. Two current residents said they have not had water since Nov. 1 and it has caused a great deal of hardship for their families.
One tenant, Brittany Gordon, moved out on Nov. 4.
"I have three children and one has autism. It caused a lot of trauma for them," Gordon said. "We had to move out and we're paying about double the rent. We really didn't have money to move, but my kids couldn't live this way—without water."
"City staff have been working with tenants on relocation options and assistance with social service agency referrals. At this time, we believe the number of occupied units is down to five, with two of those currently in the process of moving," Thompson said.
However, Janet Martinez, another tenant at the property, said she has no plans to move and had not received an eviction notice.
Hart-Johnson also said she never received an eviction notice and she cannot afford to move. She and her children take showers at friends' homes now.
The City of Beaverton stated that "based on the ongoing failure of the property owners to bring the properties into legal compliance with city code, the ongoing failure to pay utility bills, and concern over the maintenance of property conditions affecting tenants, the city made the difficult decision to end utility service to the properties."
Thompson said, "For more than a decade, the city has communicated with various property owners about the need to establish separate utility lines to the properties consistent with city code."
Reporter Blair Stenvick contributed to this article.
By Mandy Feder-Sawyer
Reporter, Beaverton Valley Times
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