Local veteran shares struggles with housing, support

Bushkill. When promises enshrined in a lease go unanswered, where is a veteran to turn?

| 08 Nov 2023 | 01:32

In Bushkill, one resident is voicing concerns over housing challenges that impact veterans and individuals with disabilities. U.S. Army veteran Giovanni Batista, moved into a rental at 2209 Lancaster Drive in Bushkill in July, along with his fiancé and her two daughters. He claims his requests to address issues with the property have been met with an unsatisfactory response from property management.

Batista has used YouTube and TiKTok to document what he claims has been a lack of responsiveness from D-N-A Property Management, the company that oversees his property. A video Batista posted to YouTube on October 18 depicts his walkthrough of the property with his agent, who Batista identified as Adam Sawah.

In the video, Batista can be heard commenting on the number of ants present, holes that need to be patched, things that need to be painted. Then Sawah points out damage, saying that it is probably why the previous tenants were evicted. In video later shared on TikTok, Batista says the issues pointed out in the walkthrough were never addressed. He also claims that he did not have a working stove for months and was unable to open certain bedroom windows.

Speaking with The Pike County Courier, Batista repeated his frustration that these issues were not resolved prior to his moving into the home.

The lease terms Batista shared with the Courier included the following clause: “A Move-In Report will be provided for the Tenants’ use which is a condition report. Landlord warrants that all major systems will be functional and in good repair at time of possession. Light switches, wall plugs, doors, windows, faucets, drains, locks, toilets, sinks, heater, etc., will either be in working order or will be repaired once reported.”

“As you can see through the video, the house was a mess,” Batista said. “There were holes all over the place, broken fixtures, ants and all the sort. They promised me that everything was going to be resolved. On move in date I trusted them.” Batista claims the only thing that was done to the house was light painting and spackling.

“During the month of July, I had nothing but patience,” said Batista. He added that the situation was already stressful enough for him having to move from New Jersey to the mountains of Pennsylvania. Batista says he suffers from PTSD and anxiety, which he claims has been worsened by the move and lack of responsiveness from the property management.

Property management

Responding to a request for comment, Natasha Leap, property manager/broker of record for D-N-A Property Management, stated that her company has been responsive to Batista’s inquiries. In an email, Leap said, “Mr. Batista has been answered on every email he has sent, every text he has sent and he called daily up until last week. This has only stopped because he threatened us with a lawyer for the 100th time, so I told him he was to have his lawyer consult with our lawyer moving forward.” Leap also said Batista has been threatening one of D-N-A Property Management’s employees. Batista denies this claim.

Leap also questioned the nature of Batista’s concerns, claiming that Veterans Affairs had inspected the house and deemed it hospitable. “If the house was so bad, why would they approve it.”

When asked about the VA inspection, Batista responded that the organization did not perform an inspection. According to Batista, the inspection was done by a private party. The Courier has been unable to obtain a copy of the inspection report.

In addition to issues related to the house, Batista claims the driveway is unsuitable for driving and has caused him to have to park his car at the bottom and walk to and from his home. Batista noted this is made more difficult by his disability due to injuries sustained while serving in the army. Batista claims that he has fallen three times walking down the driveway but says he doesn’t want to risk further damage to his vehicle. According to Batista, this has caused him to miss doctor and physical therapy appointments.

Leap said that they had asked the owner if she would be interested in paving the driveway, but she declined. Leap added that Batista has a very low car and said she understood that it was an inconvenience for him but could not do anything to address the issue at present.

As noted earlier, the presence of ants continues to impact the habitability of the home, according to Batista. He explained that one of the occupants of the home has a severe allergy to insect bites, and he is concerned about her health and safety. Batista said he reached out to CEO People Helping People who had said the house was not habitable due to an ant infestation, however he was told to stop complaining.

In a response to a request for comment, CEO said, “Confidentiality restrictions prevent us from confirming or denying whether a person is a client and if a client, prevent us from commenting. For all CEO programs that involve a tenant and landlord, CEO in not part of the landlord/tenant relationship and such issues would be between the landlord and tenant.”

Leap later added that someone had been out to the property twice to deal with ant and mice issues.

An ongoing concern

In addition to drawing attention to his personal housing challenges, Batista said he hopes sharing his story will raise awareness for the lack of housing security for veterans. He pointed to a lack of funding for Veterans Affairs and claimed that support for disabled veterans is lackluster.

Batista, who spoke about his own experience with homelessness, said, “Many vets are sleeping on the streets. The system has failed them. The families are not cared for.”

Despite his challenges with the home, Batista said he still hopes repairs will be made, and expressed interest in getting a government official to apply pressure on the landlord to make repairs. D-N-A Property Management did not provide the name or contact information of the landlord.

If the issues aren’t addressed, Batista said he is open to moving into a different unit in his community but added that the move would be taxing on his mental health.

“What I hope is to have a home that [my family] can share memories in, not nightmares,” said Batista.