I-Team: Tenants of Condemned Building Speak Out


(WBRE/WYOU)   Tenants of a building condemned by the city of Wilkes-Barre claim the owner of the building is making an already tough situation even worse. Lead I-Team reporter Andy Mehalshick talked with all sides involved.

  Shawn Smith told the I-Team it’s been “Hell.. Literally hell the family has been pretty much ripped apart due to all of this.”

Shawn Smith and Devan Engels were looking for another apartment Thursday they have been staying with family and friends ever since April third. That’s when city health and code officers, as well as the police, raided their apartment building. Shutting it down –saying it had numerous problems including a faulty electrical system and was a fire hazard.

  “We are in a huge bind I know multiple people that are still homeless living house to house like we’re doing and I feel like a burden to people because I’m so independent and doing things on my own,” Said Engels. The couple also said when they returned to their apartment several days after the raid to retrieve their personal –they were stunned about what they found. They showed us photos of their apartment.

 “The apartment was ransacked all my drawers were tossed over on the bed. Everything just was thrown everywhere. They took the TV’s they took the game systems, “Noted Smith. The owner of the building who did not want to give us his last name—told the I-Team that someone broke into his building the night is was condemned and stole valuable items. He filed a report with Wilkes-Barre police…but he insists the damage was done by some tenants including Smith and Engels 

“The tenants did the damage to the apartments, not the people who broke in. I will return the rents to about 80 percent of the tenants”.

The tenants say that statement is pure nonsense and they want their rent returned.

Andy asked the owner how he knew that the damage had been done by some of the tenants of the building. He said he just knew that is what happened.  He also tells Eyewitness News that he is working to bring the electrical system up to code and is not sure how long that will take. He admits the building is for sale “as is’.  The police took part in that raid because they say it has been a hideaway for people involved in criminal activity. Something the owner denied. City officials tell me the landlord has been cooperating with the city as far as making repairs are concerned

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