Belleville couple gets in secondhand smoke battle with landlord

Tenants call Ruth to the Rescue for help in battle with Belleville landlord

By Ruth Spencer - Anchor

BELLEVILLE, Mich. - Soon-to-be newlyweds Brian Thomas and Andrea Gibson found an apartment they thought would be a great place to start their married life together. Although, Andrea wasn't planning to move in until after their August wedding, they were both excited about the unit at the Westlake Apartments in Belleville.

Thomas said when he first looked at the apartment, he and his fiancé smelled smoke, but were told it would subside after the unit was cleaned and painted.

"Me being my first apartment, I didn't know better. Well, if they say so, I'll just believe them," Brian said.

Couple says smell doesn't go away

But the couple says the smell never went away and they spotted smoke residue. Andrea said they found it "all over the cabinets, in the bathroom and in the shower stall."

Even worse, the smoke was affecting Andrea's health. Andrea Gibson said "cigarette smoke is definitely a trigger for migraines." She says she tried to deal with it but couldn't.

When Brian took their concerns to the leasing office he was told it would cost $200 to transfer to another apartment. At this point Brian says he was fed up and ready to move out. Based on a clause in the lease, he thought he would face a penalty of less than a thousand dollars, but was still hoping for a break.

"We're hoping we can move out of the apartment without paying the fees that come with breaking the lease." Brian said.

Management company won't waive fees

Edward Rose and Sons manages the Westlake Complex and did not want to speak on camera. The company did tell us they are not planning on waiving those fees. In fact since Brian has moved out, the company may enforce the full-term of the lease which is more than $7,000.

Ruth to the Rescue spoke with a legal expert, Mt. Clemens attorney David Femminineo, "If they felt that strongly that the smoke was strong enough that it became inhabitable, I would tell them not to pay the rent and if they got sued they'd have an excellent defense," he said.

The attorney said it could be a landmark case if the court were to decide second hand smoke makes a property unlivable.

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