Condemned Apartment Leads To Suit
By: Mark Hudson
Source: Loudon County News-Herald

A Lenoir City couple has filed suit against the city, alleging officials unnecessarily condemned the basement apartment they have been renting out for decades.

Larry and Judy Trego were sent a letter July 31 informing them their basement apartment located at 705 1/2 West Broadway in Lenoir City had been condemned.

The letter, sent by Lenoir City Attorney Shannon Littleton, went on to state the Tregos had 10 days to respond before the city would "begin demolition of the subject condemned property."

The Tregos appealed the decision to the Lenoir City Board of Housing Appeals and, in a Sept. 7 hearing, the decision to condemn was upheld.

According to the inspection report on the property completed by Lenoir City Codes Enforcement Officer DeAnn Bogus, the Tregos apartment had numerous violations, three of which Bogus remarked “I would consider to be critical.”

According to city codes, "habitable (space) rooms other than kitchens, storage rooms and laundry rooms shall have a ceiling height of not less than seven feet.” The inspection report states "no ceiling in the basement apartment was the minimum of seven feet."

Bogus also noted the size of the exterior door, which code states should be "not less than three feet in width and six feet eight inches in height." According to the report, the apartment’s sole doorway has a height of five feet three inches.

Finally, Bogus’ report states "windows within the basement apartment do not meet the requirements for emergency egress."

Bogus said the inspection was carried out after the apartment’s tenant contacted the city to express concern the apartment only had one exit. She added while the apartment was well kept, "if any kind of tragic event occurred there, [Lenoir City] could be held responsible for it because we were made aware of these problems."

According to the Tregos’ lawsuit filed in Loudon County Chancery Court, the Board of Housing Appeals "failed to make findings as to the cost to remedy the alleged unfitness of the tract." Further, the suit states, "the board failed to instruct the Tregos on how to proceed with either repair or removal of the structure."

As such, the suit contends the Sept. 7 action by the Board of Housing Appeals "in condemning the property is illegal, arbitrary and capricious in that the Board failed to follow applicable law."

It goes on to say the Tregos "have suffered and will continue to suffer economic damages as a result of their inability to make productive use of their property."

The suit asks the chancellor "to issue a temporary injunction order prohibiting the city from taking any adverse action with respect to the tract" while also seeking $1,200 in damages from lost rent fees "and any other general or specific relief as they may be entitled to."

Littleton said a hearing would most likely be held on the case sometime in December, although he noted he did not expect a resolution before early next year.