At last, city makes good on botched repairs

Five years later, woman gets proper work done

After waiting five years, Esther Woltz will get the proper home repairs she deserves.

Last week, Woltz and five other plaintiffs received checks totaling $90,000 from the city of Atlanta to fix shoddy work that contractors, plucked by the city, performed.

In April, Atlanta Legal Aid filed suit on behalf of six elderly homeowners alleging that the city had misused federal funds and breached contracts with several homeowners by failing to perform adequate home repairs.

Each year, the city receives such funds to repair approximately 50 low-income elderly or disabled homeowners' houses that violate the housing code. The city decides what repairs are needed and chooses a contractor — usually the one who bids the lowest — from a pool of three to four contractors. After the repairs are made, a housing inspector approves the work and the contractor is paid.

According to the lawsuit, certain contractors performed — and got away with — shoddy repairs, leaving some homes in dire condition. In one case, a wheelchair-bound man was trapped in his home for a year because the ramp built by contractors was too steep to safely roll down and stopped in the middle of his yard instead of at the sidewalk.

Legal Aid attorney Erin Shear says the city has temporarily suspended the program while it investigates and works out the kinks. She wouldn't disclose the individual sums doled out to each client but says no client received substantially more than another.

CL originally wrote about Woltz's plight in 2001. Among the problems left by repairmen were a chipped bathtub, white powder on her hardwood floors from workers sanding her walls, and windows that were installed upside down and inside out. The city initially promised to fix its errors five years ago but never did. Finally, her wait is over.

"The first thing I'm going to spend the money on is refinishing my bathtub so I can sit in it and soak," Woltz says. "It's about time for that."

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