MIDLOTHIAN — The water was turned back on at Brian and Chelsey Eastman’s rental home in Village South Mobile Home Park at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday – but only after the park’s management was contacted by police and then a water leak dealt with at a different unit.
In fact, water was off for the entire park for several hours while the repair was addressed first.
“The police officer explained it (a temporary restraining order obtained on the Eastmans’ behalf),” said Erma Justus, wife of landlord Delbert Justus, saying the lock would be taken off of the Eastmans’ meter as soon as the other unit was fixed.
A court hearing is pending on the Eastmans’ claims that Delbert Justus has retaliated against them for complaining to the state of Texas about a pervasive smell of sewage inside of their residence. The family, which includes three children (ages 11, 2 and 1), had been without water since it was cut off Tuesday.
Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas took up the family’s case and by late Wednesday had obtained the temporary restraining order that was served Thursday on Delbert Justus. He told the Daily Light that same day he wouldn’t turn the water back on because the Eastmans were “nothing but trouble.”
The Eastmans owed a balance of about $65 – but that was the remainder of a $300 water bill they received in May stemming from a water leak they said was caused by Delbert Justus’ lack of maintenance on the trailer home they rent from him. Justus had been letting them pay the water bill off, but abruptly turned off service Tuesday, they said.
Justus said “the park” cut off the Eastmans’ water because of the unpaid balance. He said the park is a nonprofit entity, “Village South Condominiums,” that is run by a board. Erma Justus said the board members include her and her husband, their daughter Tammy (the park’s manager), another person and an employee.
Village South, which is on a master meter with the city of Midlothian, has individual meters at each lot and sends out its own bills directly to users.
When the water was cut off, Chelsey Eastman said Delbert Justus told her the unpaid balance was now immediately due and she would also have to pay a $25 reconnect fee in cash, bringing the total to about $90.
The family had been in contact with Legal Aid about the maintenance issues with the rental home, with the agency subsequently obtaining the temporary restraining order that cited retaliation by Delbert Justus against the Eastmans, amongst other issues.
When Delbert Justus didn’t obey the temporary restraining order by Friday, Eastman said she contacted Legal Aid, which began additional proceedings, and on Saturday morning, she contacted Midlothian police and provided them a copy of the temporary restraining order.
Saturday afternoon, Erma Justus acknowledged to the Daily Light a Midlothian police officer had contacted her husband and explained the order.
“We’ve fixed everything for that girl (Chelsey Eastman),” Erma Justus told the Daily Light in a telephone interview when asked about maintenance issues.
“I don’t know what their problem is,” Erma Justus said of the Eastmans. “We’re Christian people. We’re not used to being done this way.”
Delbert Justus is a deacon at First Baptist Church of Midlothian and serves as treasurer for Manna House, a nonprofit social service agency based in Midlothian.
According to court documents filed by Legal Aid attorneys David Loving and Janet Marusak, the retaliation began after Chelsey Eastman contacted the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in July about the sewage odor.
Besides having their water cut off, the retaliation against the Eastmans also included Delbert Justus notifying them their rent would increase $100 a month as of September, the court documents read.
On Thursday, the Eastmans also were served with a 30-day eviction notice.
In her conversation with the Daily Light, Erma Justus acknowledged there is a sewage odor in the park, indicating she and her husband have received a number of complaints through the years, including ones from their own daughter, Debbie Emory. Emory is the listed owner of the Eastmans’ rental home and had complained about the odor when she resided there, Erma Justus said, saying a police officer who lived in the park at one time also had complained about the smell.
“There is an odor at times,” Erma Justus said, saying the park has had it checked out several times but, as of yet, no one has been able to find the problem.
A court hearing is slated for Aug. 17 in Ellis County Court at Law No. 1, Judge Jim Chapman presiding. Legal Aid has indicated the TCEQ investigator who visited the property will testify.
Contact JoAnn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 469-517-1452.