Merrimack Valley Resident at Odds with Landlord Over Repairs

After being in temporary housing for months due to the gas disaster in Massachusetts' Merrimack Valley, some tenants are returning to find their units look a lot different than when they left them. They have heat and hot water but said they are still waiting on landlords and contractors to do other repairs.

Helen Morcelo lives on Andover Street in Lawrence. When the temperatures started getting colder in early October, she and her father who is sick, relocated to a hotel.

Last week she got the call that she could go back home, but she was not prepared for what she saw. There were holes in the ceiling and in the walls in the bedroom and the bathroom. Morcelo said the work was done in order to fix her upstairs neighbor’s heater.

She has a new stove, but her washer and dryer still do not work. There has been some progress in the last few days, but not enough for her to come home.

“It looks nothing like it did when I left it and now I’m expected to start paying rent,” Morcelo said. “It just feels like a nightmare that’s never going to end.”

When Morcelo called Columbia Gas to complain, the company extended her stay in the hotel but said the repairs have to be done by her landlord who was paid for the claim. Morcelo said she has had a hard time getting in touch with her.

“I’m not asking for much. I just want to go home,” Morcelo said as she started to cry.

NBC10 Boston tracked down her landlord Friday. At first, Mui Tiyen claimed the work had been done, but later said she is still waiting for the contractors to come back and finish. When asked when that would happen, she said it would be in a few days.

A few hours after that confrontation, Morcelo said her landlord told the contractors to order the supplies needed to finish the work. She is hopeful she will be able to spend the holidays at home with her family.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said any tenant in Morcelo’s position should reach out to his office.

“We will deal with the landlords,” he said.

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