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Bloomington landlord faces city lawsuit over rental property

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind.– A woman is scratching her head after she said she and her family were swindled into an unkempt rental property agreement.

Laura Scroggins said she found a potential rental in the newspaper and met with the landlord for a walkthrough. She and her kids wanted to stay on the south side of Bloomington.

“There were people living in the unit when we walked through, so there was furniture,” Scroggins said. “The water was not turned on so there was a foul odor.”

Scroggins said the landlord had advised her that there were drug addicts living in the house and that they hadn’t paid their rent or water, so they were being evicted. He reportedly promised to get everything up to par before Scroggins moved in on July 24. She paid nearly $2,500 and signed her lease with the understanding she would be moving in just days later.

Scroggins said she eventually got the keys to her new rental, but when she went to unlock the doors, she realized she was given the wrong keys.

“I started calling him, texting him and he will not answer,” she said. “So, I called the sheriff’s department to see what my rights were and how I could get in this unit. He said I had every right to change the locks as long as I got a hold of the landlord to get him six copies of the key.”

Scroggins said she did just that. She made it inside and was disgusted at what she found.

“The first thing I see is filth all over the stairs and the living room,” she described. “There was trash and grocery carts. It looked like homeless people had been breaking in or something. Underneath a bathroom sink, I found a whole bleach bottle full of syringes. In the kitchen cabinets, there were vials of Narcan.”

Scroggins took CBS4 inside. She pointed out markings on the wall, stains on the floors and what she said is a broken dishwasher. Upstairs, she took our photojournalist into a foul-smelling bathroom.

“There were feces in the toilet that had been there so long, it had maggots growing in them,” she said. “That’s poop in the bathtub. This is supposed to be the kid’s bathroom!”

Scroggins said the landlord never came over to clean out the property. Instead, she called the CBS4 Problem Solvers for help.

“He lies to me. Every time I ask a question, he doesn’t want to answer it,” she said.

CBS4 called Matt Cascio, the homeowner. He refused to do an on-camera interview.

“Why are you getting involved in something like this? In Bloomington?” he asked, over the phone. “This situation is not as simple as it sounds. It’s ridiculous. She could go on Facebook to do this, she doesn’t need to do this.”

When asked for his perspective of what happened, Cascio said it was all “a big drama” and that he wasn’t interested.

CBS4 confirmed with the city of Bloomington that the property Scroggins rented does not have an occupancy permit. That means the homeowner is not legally allowed to rent it out to anyone.

“If they are allowing occupancy without an occupancy permit, and that fact is proven by the city – whether that be through an agreement with the landlord or a court of law – then enforcement of the code allows for fining to occur,” Chris Wheeler, assistant city attorney, said.

Wheeler said the city could fine Cascio up to $2,500 per day for violating the ordinance. He added that this is not the first time he has heard Cascio’s name.

“I’m aware of the address and the landlord because the city brought a lawsuit against the landlord to bring to bring a property into compliance,” he said.

Records show in 2019, the city of Bloomington filed a lawsuit against Cascio. At least one was for a “property maintenance code violation.” Wheeler said because of the pandemic, their court appearances were delayed. Cascio is now due in court for a bench trial on Oct. 27.

“It’s one thing to be taken advantage of but when you’re a mom, you feel like you failed your kids,” Scroggins said, emotional. “How could you sleep with yourself at night? How could you do this to family after family after family when you have a family yourself?”

As of mid-October, Scroggins told CBS4 she had cleaned up the house herself and moved in.

CBS4 asked an attorney to weigh in about landlord-tenant relationships and what to do if a renter is put a similar situation. The lawyer said there isn’t much an individual can do to get their money back besides filing a civil lawsuit.

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