Fresno tenants without H2O despite paying bills

FRESNO, Calif.

Leandro is almost two months old. His mother Carolina Lemus wants to give him the world but right now she cannot even provide water.

Lemus: "I told myself that we need water 24 hours a day."

Water was shut off to this Southeast Fresno four-plex Friday.

"She has to sterilize the baby's bottles and it's difficult for her. And she has to send her husband out for water because she can't even do that," said Lemus's friend Patty Casillas.

The property owner Marisol Valdivia owed more than $660 to Fresno's utility department. We tried contacting Valdivia regarding payments but her calls went straight to voice mail. Veronica Duran is another tenant living with unclean dishes and dirty children. She said she and the other residents paid their bills on time.

Duran: "A couple months ago she up-ed the rent for the water to be paid. Other than that we've been getting late payments for the water. Getting notices. 15 day notice. 12 notice."

After the second notice residents were given five days to pay up. But their landlady never showed up to city hall with the money. When crews came out here to shut off the water they found out that somebody tampered with the connection valve.

Two days later the valve was temporarily fixed, and city crews proceeded to shut off the water. City utilities records indicate the landowner finally paid the overdue bill in full Monday. But because the valve is still broken the city had trouble turning the water back on.

"With every place that you rent there is an implied covenant that it's going to be fit for habitability," said lawyer Christina Hathaway.

Hathaway said the tenants could receive credit from the landowner if they ask for it.

Hathaway: "The tenant needs to keep track of whatever days they did not have water or power or utility was. In essence it is a constructive eviction which basically means I did not have full use of my apartment even though I was paying you rent."

Utility crews are working to fix the valve and have the water back on Wednesday morning.

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