Renter's Rights: Part 1

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Your home is supposed to be your safe haven, but finding that place can be a daunting experience, and not everyone knows what to ask when looking, especially when you're renting.

Not asking the right questions can be costly.

We visit the apartment of one Rapid City woman who knows that firsthand.

It's part one of our two-part special report "Renter's Rights."

"It was not brought up. And I didn't think to ask because it's one of the farthest things from your mind," Jacquie Trople said.

On the night of May 18th, Jacquie Trople's basement apartment filled with 29 inches of water, which is this high, ruining 90 percent of her furniture and many other personal possessions.

Jacquie Trople has been living in this basement apartment near downtown Rapid City for two and a half years.

But on May 18th, flash flooding wrecked it and displaced her from her home.

Trople's apartment is not in a flood zone, and she says her landlord did not tell her it has flooded in the past.

"The neighbors around me who have lived here most of their lives said at least twice before it's been flooded. And it was the same reason, it's because the water came in off of Mount Rushmore Road," Jacquie Trople said.

And Trople is not alone in her situation.

Many South Dakotans rent a home or apartment without knowing everything about it.

Jody Gillaspie from the South Dakota Division of Consumer Protection in Pierre says her office receives hundreds of calls relating to landlords and tenants every year.

"What our office, what Consumer Protection does, is tries to mediate or work with both the landlord and the tenant so it doesn't have to go to that next level, to see if we can get something worked out that's suitable to both parties," Jody Gillaspie said, director, South Dakota Consumer Protection Division.

So was Trople's landlord required to reveal the previous flooding?

The answer is "No."

However, Gillaspie says if you inquire about an apartment's past or features, the landlord should answer truthfully.

But how do you know what to ask?

"At this time underneath the lease of real property statutes, there isn't anything specific that they (landlords) are required to tell. As a tenant though, a potential tenant, there would be things that they could simply ask. Have you had bed bugs issues? Have you had any water issues? What are your heating costs?" Jody Gillaspie said.

Trople's basement apartment is almost completely renovated.

She says she feels comfortable moving back because her landlord is working to fix the problem.

"My landlord is making every effort towards remediating so the flood will not come up again. They're building a barrier and it's going to be trenched out and there are going to be other steps taken," Jacquie Trople said.

Trople says her story is a cautionary tale and hopes by sharing her experience, less people will suffer the same dilemma.

"Things are not always on the surface. You have to ask the right questions and if you get the opportunity, knock on the doors of the neighbors and ask them, Hey, I'm thinking about moving in here. What's the neighborhood like?" Jacquie Trople said.

While she had renter's insurance, it didn't actually cover any of the flooding damage so she had to fundraise to cover her costs.

On Wednesday we'll take a look at what else you should ask before renting.

We'll also look at steps you can take if you come across a valid problem with your apartment.

All of that and more in part two of "Renter's Rights."