2 Atlanta Army veterans say they are still paying for rental house after tree fell on it

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Two Atlanta Army veterans are begging for help. A tree fell on the home they rent during last weeks’ downpours.

Now, they tell Channel 2′s Courtney Francisco that they can’t afford to move out of the soggy, damaged house.

Speaking with Francisco, Christman Hampton said after the tree fell on the house, he jumped into action to make sure everyone got out safely.

Five days after the tree fell, it’s been removed from the home. However, a tarp is covering holes in the walls, and a large tree branch remains lodged in the dining room ceiling.

“It was just a tremendous thing, and it happened in the middle of the night, and everyone was scared,” Velma Robinson said.

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Now, Robinson’s fear turns to paying rent from a house with huge holes in it while paying for a new place to stay.

“There’s no money to spare at all,” Robinson said.

She and her husband, Christman Hampton, are both Army Veterans. She served in Iraq and Afghanistan and he served in Desert Storm. They were both disabled and live on a fixed income.

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“I don’t know where we can turn,” Robinson said.

The tree fell forward from the backyard of the rental home. Now, the left side of the house needs repairs, the fencing outside and both the front and back yards need cleaning up. Inside, the home also needs cleaning and repairs.

Sheetrock and insulation litter the home.

Channel 2 Consumer Advisor Clark Howard said landlords should not ask you to pay rent during these type of big repairs. If you do pay rent, they should have a comparable place for you to stay until repairs are complete.

“What’s fair and proper in this situation? The tenant is paying rent for something they cannot use, and it’s not the tenants’ fault. The landlord has a responsibility to a tenant to either give them a payment holiday on rent until it’s occupiable, again, give them a place to live until it’s occupiable again or give them a payment allowance to live somewhere else and they continue to pay rent to the landlord,” Howard said.

He suggests renters in this situation write an e-mail and send a certified letter via the U.S. Postal Service. In that letter, you should list the date the house became unable to be occupied and inform the landlord you need alternate housing or funding to find your own temporary housing.

“You put the shoe on the other foot,” Howard said.

If landlords refuse to work with tenants, the Georgia Landlord-Tenant Handbook says to inform the landlord you will hire contractors to make the repairs and deduct the cost from your rent. You must put this in writing and, ideally, the landlord would agree before you begin repairs.

If a home is uninhabitable, you can move out. There is a catch, though. Landlords can still ask you to pay rent for the remainder of the lease and take you to court if you do not pay. A judge will then decide if you need to pay the landlord.

In Robinson’s case, she’s tired of living under a tarp. She’s just uneasy about the alternatives.

“It’s very stressful to think that we could potentially have nowhere to go,” Robinson told Channel 2 Action News.

The family has set up a website for private donations to help them move.

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