When a landlord-tenant relationship gets tricky, there's a hotline to help
When the home you lease or rent is damaged in a natural disaster, it can be difficult to know what your rights and responsibilities are as a landlord or tenant. Luckily for Alaskans, there is a resource ready and willing to help.
"It's nothing that I'd want to go through again, ever," said Tim Benson on Thursday, after describing the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that left him and his neighbors without utilities for days.
As a resident at Creekwood Park Apartments in Palmer, he's watched his community pull together. Donated water and heaters helped residents through the aftermath of the earthquake and ensuing aftershocks, until utilities were fully restored Tuesday night.
"These are people I live with. These are my neighbors. This is my community," Benson said, explaining that he has also felt his neighbors' frustration.
Residents received letters Tuesday saying the buildings are structurally sound, a determination the leasing company says was made by experienced maintenance personnel, but not a licensed building inspector.
However, signs of shifting foundations and growing cracks still have tenants on edge.
"I don't feel it's safe even though we've been told by an unprofessional person, with an unprofessional opinion, that it is safe," Christine Jones said.
Ed Cornforgh, president of Somerset Pacific LLC in Idaho which manages the property, said they're offering to transfer leases to their other properties in the area which received less damage. He also said getting a certified engineer to the property is taking some time, as they're currently in high-demand.
Brett Hubbard with Alaska's Department of Law (DOL) said his office has received multiple calls from tenants in the wake of last Friday's earthquake wanting to better understand their rights, but the issues don't fit under consumer protection and DOL attorneys are barred from giving out legal advice.
He refers callers to the Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC), a local nonprofit offering free civil legal services to low-income Alaskans.
"Housing is a big issue for people in Alaska — in any of the cities, in rural villages, anywhere there are landlords and tenants," said Laura Goss with ALSC. "And there are issues when there are landlords and tenants."
The nonprofit offers a help hotline specifically for tenant and landlord questions twice a week: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Goss, who coordinates pro bono services, said attorneys volunteer to staff the phone line and answer questions each week.
Anchorage residents can call in at 907-743-1000, and people who live outside of Anchorage can call toll-free at 855-743-1001.
Anyone who doesn't get through can also call ALSC during its normal business hours, with any civil legal issues, including landlord and tenant law.
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