ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - A couple hospitalized due to carbon monoxide poisoning at a home in St. Paul says their landlord is making it difficult for them to find another place to live.
“He said the only way we can get our deposit back is if we clean out the spot,” said Pao Thao. ““It makes me pretty pissed off.”
Thao and his wife, Shoua Vang, had only lived on the second floor of 1042 Burr Street in St. Paul for two and a half weeks when they were hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning on New Year’s Day. A total of ten people went to hospital for treatment. Thao was one of two tenants treated in a hyperbaric chamber to replace the dangerous level of carbon monoxide in his blood with oxygen. Officials condemned the home that day. Since then, Thao has been living out of his car, while his wife stays with a relative.
“[It has been] cold, but I don’t want to be late for work,” said Thao. “I don’t want to miss no days of work, so I thought I’d just stay close to work.”
Their new living situations are due largely to the fact the homeowner has yet to return their $1,000 security deposit.
“I don’t know what’s his issue, I really don’t,” said Vang.
When Fox 9 called their landlord, Tao Lee of Lake Elmo, he declined to speak to on camera. However, when asked if he would return their deposit, he said,"The couple has yet to clean their apartment and pay the rent."
One housing attorney says that may violate their tenant rights.
“The city is saying you can’t live here you have to move, so for that reason statute sets up a system where the tenant is entitled to the return of his deposit in five days,” said Matt Eichenlaub, a housing attorney.
That means the couple should have gotten their cash back four days ago at the latest.
“It makes me feel very angry, to be honest with you, it makes me very angry,” said Vang.
Eichenlaub says Lee’s refusal to return the money could cost him more in the long run.
“They can pursue a double amount of the deposit, plus interest and an additional $500 in punitive damages,” said Eichenlaub.
By law, the landlord cannot collect rent on a property that's been condemned either.