Raw Sewage in Your Apartment: Repairs Your Landlord Can't Ignore


There are lots of crappy situations you can run into when you're living in multi-unit housing. Loud neighbors in the apartment next door can keep you up at night or, if they're smokers, you might breathe secondhand smoke wafting in from their place. But we can't think of anything crappier -- literally -- than your apartment filling up with raw sewage.

That's what Jocelyn Shepherd is dealing with. When she moved into her Atlanta apartment, she was immediately hit with several problems. The first was an issue with running water. When that was seemingly fixed, an even worse problem arose: Feces began to seep from the toilet and sink -- and even from the walls and floors of her home, Shepherd told WXIA-TV in Atlanta. Shepherd's home is so flooded with human waste that it even runs into her neighbor's apartment.

WARNING: The images and video below may be disturbing to some people.

Raw sewage in Jocelyn Shepherd's apartment
Raw sewage in Jocelyn Shepherd's apartment

"My bathroom is just full of everybody's feces. The tub, filled with feces. There's mildew, mold coming down the wall," Shepherd said.

Shepherd (pictured below) lives in the apartment with her fiance and three children, one of whom is only 3 months old. The situation has forced the children to stay with family and friends, but Shepherd has stayed put. She hasn't paid rent since November because of the unsanitary living conditions. According to WXIA, the building's property manager said that she stopped trying to fix the problem in Shepherd's apartment once Shepherd stopped paying rent.

Jocelyn Shepherd has raw sewage in her apartment.
Jocelyn Shepherd has raw sewage in her apartment.

"They don't even want to come in and see what's wrong," Shepherd said.

This raises the question: Doesn't Shepherd's landlord have to fix this problem? All tenants of apartment buildings have the right to a habitable living space, and landlords are required by law to fix problems that affect habitability -- many of which could be violations of building and housing codes. Landlords who don't comply by keeping their property habitable can face law enforcement action, including fines and/or jail time. Depending on state law, tenants who find themselves in a situation like Shepherd's have the right to withhold rent until the problem is fixed, or even end a lease agreement and move out without paying the full term of the agreement.

For Shepherd, her family was recently offered a temporary place to stay, but she says that they have no money for a permanent home. They have no furniture, either: Everything they had was saturated by sewage.

The City of Atlanta told WXIA that it has done "all that it can." Code enforcement officers cited the property owner three times in 2011, and have issued a brand new batch of citations for the sewage and other building safety issues.