Detroit mother faces losing 3 children due to crumbling apartment

A Highland Park woman faced losing her children over the condition of her house after she had issues getting her landlord to fix it up.

You may remember a house on Orleans Street on the Detroit/Highland Park border. FOX 2 was out there in October because the ceiling caved in. The landlord fixed that, but now there are other problems.

"A big picture window being broken out, holes in the floor and problems with rodents, namely a squirrel in the attic," said attorney Tracey M. Martin.

What's worse now is that the Department of Health and Human Services is threatening to take away Shawndale's three children, ages 15, 5, and 4, because the house is not safe. The owner says the broken window is the fault of the tenant.

"They are alleging that they're backing away from any responsibility," Martin said.

"I didn't break no window. I went to church one Sunday and came back to my window broke," Shawndale said.

Generally, repairs such as a window would be the responsibility of the landlord. FOX 2 contacted the landlord as did the lawyer and window glass was delivered -- although the window has to be installed. But what about those squirrels?

When FOX 2 was there, squirrel traps were being set. The tenant was planning on doing the work and withholding the rent in an escrow account until a judge decides.

In a letter, the landlord says the tenant is not authorized to do any work on the window or withhold the rent.

Shawndale is behind about $1,700 in rent. Her attorney says that she is eligible for state emergency relief because she is low income and has children and that should take care of the back rent.

"She may very well be going into another property if these issues are not remedied with this current property owner," Martin said.