Memphis couple frustrated after living in apartment with no utilities for months

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Utility theft is keeping a Memphis couple from having the basic modern conveniences in their apartment.

They can't get their power on until they pay a big fine, but the tenants say it's not their bill.

Andre Smith and his girlfriend, Kimberly Smith, moved into their South Memphis apartment in December 2017.

"It's been horrible since December. From December to July, it's been horrible," Andre said.

The power wasn't on yet, but they say the owner told them it was being worked on and electricity would be on soon.

"I haven't had legit power since December," Andre said.

He says 'legit,' because he tells us the apartment manager ran an extension cord from another apartment to his so they could have power.

Now, seven months later, after a cold winter and a hot summer they still have no heat or air.

"They was telling me, they was working on getting me some lights," Andre said.

"You tell me I can move in, we give you the money to move in, you take it and then when we're here we can't get lights," Kimberly said.

For months, the tenants say they used power from another apartment to run a lamp to see with and a hot plate to cook.

"He gave us a heater. That was it. It was cold. We used the bathroom in the dark," Kimberly said. "We had one light. I'm a grown woman. I had to go to other people's houses to take a bath and to cook."

The maintenance manager, who wouldn't go on camera, admitted to WREG that he ran the extension cord from another unit to power Andre and Kimberly's.

He says it was a temporary solution that turned into weeks as he tried to help the couple out, and was working to fix things.

"We are paying for that electricity. Apartment number 11 has occupants in it that was sharing their electricity with number four, and my boss was paying for it," the maintenance worker said.

But code inspectors tell us that running extension cords from one apartment to another is a safety hazard that can overload a circuit and cause a fire.

We're told the apartment managers were told to remove the extension cords, putting the couple back in the dark.

WREG asked for the code inspection history of the apartment and found out there had been electrical problems here since last April, including unlicensed contractors doing work and electricians pulling permits and not being paid.

That's not all.

On top of working on the electricity, the manager pulled out the pipes to fix a gas line - leaving a gaping hole to the outside in the couple's bathroom.

MLGW says to get the power on, the couple must come up with almost $800 in diversion charges and fees for utility theft, back in January.

The Smith's say utilities were never in their name.

It was in the landlord's name, so if power theft occurred it shouldn't be on them.

They say the bill is $1,500.

"We're going to have to pay this $1,500 light bill, which is wrong. We're going to have to pack all of our stuff up and put it in storage, which is extra money. We'll have to live in a hotel," Andre said.

WREG was at the apartments when the owner called the couple.

We tried to ask him why he was renting this apartment without repairs being made.

"It doesn't pass code. How are you renting an apartment out that doesn't pass code?" we asked.

He said the apartment didn't have gas when it was rented, and apparently they only needed electricity, which they had.

But he said, they had to make repairs to the electrical box.

But he says Andre and Kim were behind in rent, so they are in the process of evicting them anyway.

"It feels like it's a scheme," the couple said.

Andre and Kim say as long as they are stiffed for this unpaid utility fee, they can't move forward.

"What we want is for them to correct this light bill situation, and we will leave," they said.

The eviction case is set to be in court on Thursday.

MLGW tells us no one had ownership of utilities at the time of the utility theft, but Andrew was on the apartment lease.

They say they are willing to speak with him about the charges.

Code inspectors tell us, you can't rent an apartment that doesn't have working utilities, even if they are being worked on.

When repairs are being made, running electrical wires from one unit to power another is a safety violation.