Ceiling collapse traps two people

April 11, 2008 3:17:46 PM PDT
It was a scary scene for a family in southwest Houston overnight. The ceiling in their apartment collapsed. Fortunately no one was hurt, but according to the tenant, it was an accident that did not need to happen. "I came, I looked and the whole ceiling was down," said tenant Marie Bostwick.

Bostwick never imagined she'd wake to a scene like this. The entire ceiling in her apartment near Clarewood at Ranchester in southwest Houston was smashed on the floor. Her 85-year-old mother, who was praying nearby, was the first to hear the roof come down.

"Something fell and went 'boom,'" said tenant Remmie Koker. "I said, 'What is this?' Then the second time again. Then I was afraid."

Fortunately, no one was in the living room when the accident happened. However, debris meant firefighters would have to rescue the family. Bostwick says the terrifying ordeal was only made worse because she had complained numerous times about the roof to the complex manager.

"If they really did what they were supposed to do, this would not have happened," said Bostwick.

The property manager says she does have records of one call in January about the ceiling. Maintenance workers did inspect the apartment, but found nothing. No other ceiling complaints, she says, had been made until Friday.

The Houston Apartment Association says to avoid discrepancies, tenants should keep track of their complaints.

"You should always put whatever the repair is in writing because that'll make sure that nobody has any way of saying that was or what was not done," said Darlene Guidry with the Houston Apartment Association.

Landlords do have an obligation to make repairs in a timely fashion. However, they must be notified promptly. If the repairs are not made, the association says tenants do have other options.

"If they really are in fear of their health and well-being and safety, I would suggest they go ahead and move out," said Guidry.

Bostwick says she would love to move out, but doesn't have the resources. She's concerned that her first complaint should have been enough.

"I always pay my rent on time. I never gave them trouble," said Bostwi9ck. "I feel like when I call that something's wrong, they should come in and check it," she said.

We did check with police about this complex. In May of 2007, there was a graffiti complaint. That was corrected by the manager. In November of 2007, there was an accidental fire that was corrected by the manager.

If you have complaints about a repair that hasn't been fixed, you can call the Houston Apartment Association resident relations line at 713-595-0300 and choose option #4

The roof collapse was from a buildup of condensation that had not been detected. Complex management has offered to relocate Bostwick within the complex, but Bostwick has refused.

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