Donor gives Gwinnett tent family 2 nights in hotel

Landlord hasn't repaired storm damage and Sugar Hill declares home uninhabitable

The Gwinnett County family that slept two nights in tents outside of their unlivable home will get to sleep in hotel beds tonight and Friday night, thanks to an anonymous donor.

"I am so grateful. I am so grateful," Allyson Reinecke said Thursday night. "You have no idea."

Family members say their landlord has failed to make repairs to their home, which was damaged in an April storm. Thursday morning, the family woke up to another nightmare: an eviction notice.

Reinecke said the notice stated they were being evicted for failure to pay rent. However, Reinecke says she produced proof of her payments to landlord Bertha Botello and that Gwinnett County police told her Thursday morning she does not need to vacate the property immediately.

On Tuesday, the home Reinecke shares with her husband and daughter, mother-in-law and two brothers-in-law was declared unlivable by a city inspector. The modular home was severely damaged by a storm that sent a tree crashing into their living room and a bedroom, leaving holes in the roofline and unstable walls, said Burny Agee, building officer for the City of Sugar Hill.

"These people were living in horrible conditions and exposed to the elements ... the repairs should have started two months ago," Agee said, explaining that he first inspected the home in April and advised the family to begin repairs within days.

However, the city has no authority to force a landlord to make repairs, he said.

Fearing another storm could further the damage and harm the family, the city declared the home uninhabitable this week.

"It's a life safety issue," he said.

When reached Wednesday, Botello said she plans to repair the house, but said the process was delayed as the settlement was negotiated.

Agee said Botello visited his office Wednesday and Thursday morning, where he again advised her that she needs a building permit and a licensed contractor to repair the home on Creek Lane.

Reinecke said and her family have lived in the Creek Lane home for six years on a lease-to-purchase plan, paying $800 monthly, she said.

An insurance agent estimated the repair costs at $20,000, Reinecke said. Her family had to front roughly $750 in costs for tree removal and for putting tarps on the roof, she said.

And they waited for the house to be fixed.

"I didn't think that in two months, [repairs] still wouldn't be done," she said. "I have been doing everything in my power to figure out what has possessed her to do this to us."

Botello says her husband received a check for the repairs, but did not specify the amount.

"I received a check and it's in the bank," she said Wednesday. "But it was delayed for two months because they insisted in getting involved in something that did not concern them."

Botello did not elaborate.

Reinecke said her family slept in tents because they were afraid of leaving their valuables behind.

For now, Reinecke says the family is taking it one day at a time. And they're willing to take any help that comes their way to help them get back on their feet.

On Monday, the family scraped together what they could to give Reinecke's daughter Scarlett a happy birthday. She turned 3.

The family feared they would have to give up three of their many beloved pets -- a Chihuahua, Siberian husky and a black Labrador. The animals were forced outside, too. Reinecke said Humane Society volunteers have stepped in to offer the animals temporary homes.

Others have also come forward, offering help to the family in need and hope during a time of utter desperation. The family wants to find a new place to live.

"I'm hoping that God will stay with us on this," Reinecke said. "I will definitely not rule out anything. I'm needing the help, and I'm going to ask for it."

-- Staff writer Rudolf Isaza contributed to this article