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Attorney ‘shocked’ at difficulty getting eviction case against west side woman dropped

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- A woman facing eviction from her apartment on the west side won her case in court, but an attorney representing her said he's concerned about what the case means for other tenants.

Alvenia Smith and other residents at Addison Creek apartments tell CBS4 Problem Solvers they have been living with major issues in their apartments. In August, Smith first spoke out about her case, which had been on the Marion County Health Department's radar before she moved into her apartment.

"I haven’t been late or past due on anything, I just want the work done," Smith said.

The health department filed a court case against Addison Creek's owners, T.E.H. Realty, in July, claiming managers had failed to make repairs in Smith's unit in a timely manner. The case is still pending.

A month later, Smith received a letter saying she had to move out of her apartment before her lease ended in order for the company to make repairs. Managers said in the letter that they would work with Smith if she filed a request for an extension in writing, but after she submitted that request an eviction case was filed against her in court.

"I don’t have nowhere else to go. The place that I did put an application in, get an interview for, pay for my ... reservation to hold, it won’t be ready until November," Smith said.

Smith's case was picked up by Indiana Legal Services, which offers free representation to people who cannot afford to hire an attorney. Lead housing attorney Brandon Beeler said initially, he did not expect Smith's case to be difficult.

"This is actually a case I assigned to a law student that I was going to supervise because it seemed so simple," Beeler said.

Instead, Beeler ended up taking over the case, saying he had to argue to a judge that a provision in Smith's lease saying it could be cancelled at any time if an apartment became uninhabitable was not legal.

"A landlord or property management company cannot waive their obligation, through a lease, ... to provide safe and habitable housing," Beeler said.

Beeler argued that Smith should be allowed to stay in her apartment until her lease ends at the end of October. The judge ended up agreeing, issuing a dismissal of the case after Smith paid $100.

"(It was) really shocking that it took so much effort to get to this result," Beeler said.

Smith isn't the only tenant at Addison Creek facing a court case. CBS4 Problem Solvers also spoke to Heather Fields about issues in her apartment. Fields has since moved out of the complex and has been taken to court for unpaid rent.

"No change is going to happen unless somebody speaks out," Fields said in August.

Beeler said he is concerned by how difficult it was to get Smith's case dismissed and his office gets more calls for representation in eviction cases than it can handle, leaving many tenants to fend for themselves in court.

"She did nothing wrong and without assistance of an attorney she very well could have, on paper, looked like she had to leave due to some sort of violation," Beeler said.

CBS4 Problem Solvers has reached out multiple times to T.E.H. Realty for comment over the past two months and no one has returned calls.

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