OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Tenants at an Oklahoma City apartment complex that has gone without heat for months are celebrating a small victory at court, although they still remain without heat. A district judge ruled Friday that they are not required to pay rent until the apartment complex management restores heat.
“It’s getting to the point I’m getting frustrated,” said tenant Cathy Chatmon. “I’m getting depressed and as soon as I walk in my door, depression starts in.”
A cold apartment has awaited Chatmon every day for months. Since September, she and everyone living at Foxcroft Apartments, located at 6810 NW 16th St. have had no heat at all.
Chatmon said in desperation for warmth, she recently turned on her oven and left the door open. When that provided no comfort, she turned on the stove as well and went to her bedroom.
“By the time I got back there I heard the smoke alarm go off, came back here, flames are shooting out of the stove,” she displayed for KFOR, showing us how she put the flames out with her oven mitt. “I didn’t call the fire department. Flames were shooting out. So, I just put it out with the oven mitt.”
Attorneys Ryan Owens and Chris Cotner are representing the Foxcroft tenants in a court case against the owners and management company of the apartment complex. Owens said no one from complex’s management company, Regional Management Company, was present at the first hearing on Friday. Only their defense attorney was there.
Owens explained that the defense expressed that a previous owner of the apartments never mapped out where the complex’s gas lines are and that’s making it difficult to find the gas leak causing the heating failure.
“Their defense was, ‘we’re doing everything we can,’ which is just clearly not enough,” Owens said. “The attorney for the property management company kept using, ‘well, we’re being diligent. We’re doing everything we can.’ Well, no you’re not. Diligence is quick, sense of urgency, we’re going to get this resolved quickly. And that is not happening.”
Oklahoma County District Judge Anthony Bonner ordered a temporary injunction that heat must be restored to the apartment and that until heat is safely provided, all rent from all tenants is not required to be paid and that no tenant can be evicted. The injunction can be lifted if heat is restored.
“What we did achieve on Friday that will hopefully get their attention is that no one has to pay rent anymore,” Owens said. “There won’t be any money changing hands at Foxcroft until the heat’s turned back on. Maybe they’ll be a bit more diligent now about getting this fixed since we’re going to hit them in the only place that seems to matter: their pocketbook.”
Chatmon appreciates the court victory, but said she remains depressed.
“We’re not going to get no heat,” she said somberly. “I don’t think we’re going to have any heat before the winter’s over with. And then after that, I don’t know what’ll happen.”
In addition to getting heat returned consistently and uniformly to the complex, Owens and the tenants of Foxcroft are suing the complex’s owner and property management for damages.
KFOR reached out to Regional Management Company’s defense attorney Matt Wheatley by phone and email on Monday but haven’t heard back.