Ceiling collapse raises safety, legal concerns for Alex residents

·3 min read

May 31—ALEXANDRIA — For much of the six months Andreas Redick-Sanfillippo has lived with her stepfather, Gregory Logan, in their rented three-bedroom ranch-style home 5800 block of North Theresa Drive in Alexandria, she noticed yellowed wet spots on the ceiling of the front room.

Redick-Sanfillippo said she had reported the spots to Fishers-based Zuluscape, the management company for the home in the Heritage Heights subdivision, to no avail.

"We've been sending updates to the management company that the wet spots on the ceiling have been growing," she said.

On Thursday, however, the ceiling came crashing down into the room of the home built in 1972. No injuries were reported.

Officials from Zuluscape did not return calls for comment.

From what Redick-Sanfillippo was told by a team sent by the management company, the collapse was the result of a pipe that was cut but not correctly capped and resulted in condensation that caused the wet spots.

Redick-Sanfillippo, who pays $1,200 a month in rent, said though it's generally a nice house, it isn't without its problems. For instance, the toilet in one bathroom doesn't flush when it rains, and the toilet in the other can't flush without first being plunged, she said.

"We've kind of had problems from Day One," she said.

Though the management company did send out a team Friday to check on the damage and prepare for the cleanup, Redick-Sanfillippo said she's concerned she and her family will be stuck with the bill because of a clause in the lease that makes tenants responsible for drainage problems.

At one point when there was a problem with the air conditioning, she said, Zuluscape sent someone to fix the problem but tried to bill her for the repairs.

"I think it's illegal to even have something like that on it," she said. "It's a nightmare dealing with this company, and then they want to charge us for stuff."

While other families are deciding whether to barbecue ribs or hamburgers this Memorial Day weekend, Redick-Sanfillippo is deciding whether she can stay in the house or should move. She's also trying to decide whether to take legal action against Zuluscape.

"We're not suit crazy or anything, but we just want to be able to make a decision," she said. "We really don't want to move, but I don't feel like we should be responsible for any of this financially."

One of Redick-Sanfillippo's other challenges was figuring out to whom she should report the problem. Though the house has an Alexandria address, it is in an unincorporated part of the county.

Brad Newman, executive director of the Madison County Planning Commission and county building commissioner, admitted he may be one of the people to whom issues like this can be reported, but not to expect much in the way of results.

"I wish we had the ability to step in on something like that, but we can't," he said.

However, he has neither the legal means nor budget to take much action on serious complaints by tenants against their landlords. Only under the most extreme of circumstances would he be able to take action, he said.

"If it were considered an unsafe structure at that point, we could get an order for the structure to be torn down," he said.

Another possible avenue of recourse, Newman said, is the county health department, which could condemn the structure if the damage is deemed a health and safety hazard. But most likely, he said, the best way to resolve the issues would be through civil action in court.

Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.

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