ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - An Albuquerque landlord is in hot water Wednesday after trying to rent out apartments that are dangerous to live in.
It seemed he was getting away with it, too until one tenant refused to give up until he got his money back.
Melvin Mejia said the ad made the apartment look like the perfect fit for his family.
"We went inside, looked at them, we liked them: Three bedrooms, big kitchen, big living room, right by our kids' school. It was perfect," he said.
The landlord, Doug Easton, showed them a nearby empty apartment, saying the one up for rent was occupied – but would be ready by the first of the month.
"I handed him $400. He made an application. He got my social security number, my wife's social security number, got all of our information," he said.
It was all set. But he says the landlord wouldn't answer their calls.
"On the first, we came to see if these people were moving out. We came to the apartment, talked to the people - and that's when we saw the red tag," he said.
The property had been deemed unsafe by the city.
Mejia says it wasn't until APD officer Jerome Armijo stepped in that they got their money back. Armijo contacted Easton and persuaded Easton to hand back the money.
On Wednesday, Armijo, the Safe City Strike Force and other city officials met with Easton. Lapel camera video captured the meeting.
"I explained to him they needed their deposit, they need to settle up or things would be taken care of," Armijo said in the meeting.
In the meeting, Easton offered no real explanation for why the red-tagged property was not only occupied, but still being listed for rent.
"That's the only building I have left that's my retirement, blah blah blah," he said. "I've got to do everything I can but in working with you at Elm [one of Easton's other properties] I know exactly what needs to be done before anything happens."
Safe City Strike Force Director Joe Martinez says they've dealt with Easton before and on Wednesday sent him a clear warning.
"I actually feel that he's defrauding these people," Martinez said. "He has a clear understanding from us today that that property is not to be re-rented, re-advertised until such time that it passes a full inspection by the city of Albuquerque. "
Mejia now has his money back, thanks to the officer stepping in but says he knows other potential renters might not be so lucky.
"They do background checks on us, so I think we should start doing background checks on the owners," he said.
On Tuesday, a judge told the current occupants of the red-tagged units to get out within a week.
The city says will also be inspecting some of his other rental units to make sure they're up to standard.
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