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Eyewitness News Investigates: Slumlord Allegations

A class action lawsuit was filed against JD Home Rentals on Thursday.
Eyewitness News investigates a class action lawsuit filed Thursday against JD Home Rentals.  The lawsuit goes back four years, but some tenants say they dealt with big problems in their homes for over a decade.

Jesucita Esteves points to an enlarged picture of what her home used to look like, with walls peeling apart.  Her parents and four siblings have lived in a house owned by JD Home Rentals for over a decade, and say the conditions were terrible. 

"We would call and say 'the restroom is throwing water all the way to the kitchen,' and they said 'ok we'll send someone there,' and a couple days later no one would come.  My dad would have to pay plumbers to fix it because they wouldn't fix [anything], said Jesucita Esteves, a tenant named in the lawsuit.

The Esteves family is among six plaintiffs listed in a class action lawsuit against JD home rentals, but lawyers believe thousands have had to live in slum conditions.

"We didn't bring this lawsuit lightly, we did it because we felt there was no other way to get the results we needed once and for all," said Patricia Van Dyke, a co-lawyer in the case filed.

"Tenants Together," the organization that investigated the issue, says JD Homes owns about 3,000 homes in the Fresno area.  They say many are left vacant and are magnets for crime.  Lawyers allege the low-income housing company is least responsive to poor, immigrant tenants.. 

"They tend to prey on vulnerable communities.  People that don't even speak Spanish let alone English," said Van Dyke. 

According to the City of Fresno, it opened 132 housing code violation cases against JD Home Rentals in 2013.  That's about 10% of all housing code violations in the city last year. 

"JD Homes turns code enforcement into it's management company because they will only repair when they get caught," said Leah Simon-Weisberg, of Tenants Together. 

JD Home Rentals says in a statement: "Prior to the filing of the lawsuit, JD Home Rentals requested that the tenants and their attorneys provide access to the properties to make any necessary repairs.  However, the tenants and their out-of-town lawyers have chosen to file the lawsuit instead of allowing JD Homes to make any necessary repairs."

The Esteves family says their home was repaired last month, thanks to help from attorneys.  Both sides of this case say they're willing to sit down and come to an agreement.

For more on whether you can join the lawsuit, call 559-376-2060.
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