Reprieve for pregnant Falls tenant, home sold from under her


NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – When Colleen Atwood contacted Call 4 Action earlier this month, her landlord had shut her water off, even though she was paying the bill, and her home was in foreclosure because he was not paying the mortgage.

“Deeply upsetting, especially because I am pregnant,” Atwood said at the time, “trying to give birth, and now I have to move and I don’t know where I am going.”

Worse still, once the water was shut off, Niagara Falls officials condemned the house as unlivable.

Atwood appealed to the Niagara Falls Water Board to restore her water service, and let her continue to pay the bill, “I said can we put this in my name? I am responsible on the lease for the water anyway, and I am current on the water bill. They said no, the owner has to put it in your name.”

Friday was the day of reckoning for Colleen and her landlord. The bank put her house on the auction block, at Niagara Falls City Hall, and Colleen’s uncle Rob Frain represented her interests at the sale.

Atwood’s landlord did not try to buy his foreclosed property, and the bank bought its property back. Frain was told how the sale might affect his niece.

“I talked to a lawyer earlier here today, and they have to file a deed. Once the deed is filed then it will be turned over to the bank.”

Lawyers familiar with the case told us Atwood can stay in the house, even though she has already packed much of her belongings, as long as she gets the water turned back on. Colleen has a lawyer to help her do that.

Lawyers have also told us it is illegal for a landlord to shut off the water, or any utility, in an effort to force a tenant to leave—called “self help” in the legal community—but apparently it is up to the tenant to enforce that law.

To complicate things, the mortgage is backed by the government, which creates more red tape for Atwood, but at least she now has more options to consider.

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