Joyce Moseley said it’s been five weeks since she complained to the Forest Hills Apartments’ front office that the air conditioner in her unit went out.
She said they told her they would fix it but they haven’t.
“I’m 63, I have COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and a broken leg,” Moseley, a 36-year resident of the apartment complex, said. “You want to know how hot is in here. I can hardly draw a breath.”
Forest Hills has had a history of troubles in recent years. The 136-unit apartment complex is on Seventh Avenue, and has 96 apartments reserved for residents who receive federal housing subsidies.
Because of that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development conducts routine inspections of the living corridors. The complex has scored well below standards in recent years.
A year ago in June, inspectors found holes in apartment walls, damaged roofs, water damage, paint peeling, exposed wires, outdated fire extinguishers and combustible materials improperly stored, among other violations.
Joseph Phillips, regional HUD spokesman, said a below par inspection requires the complex to submit a plan for fixing the problems.
“HUD is working closely with the new property management company to ensure that the property is clean, safe and decent housing for the tenants,” Phillips said.
Delays in service
Outside the apartments, construction workers worked on the exterior of the buildings.
But the problems existed inside the apartments.
“Air-conditioning and windows, and mold and electrical problems, they won’t fix,” Moseley said. “But they will make it look good outside.”
On Wednesday, when it was 86 degrees midday, the air inside Moseley’s apartment barely stirred and the heat was almost suffocating. Sweat dripped down Moseley’s face as she and other neighbors discussed the management’s response. Some received federal subsidies. Others paid the full rent.
Keith Miller, 52, who has lived next door to Moseley for six years said he has had a number of problems with his unit, including holes in his ceiling that were not fixed properly.
“I’ve got a spot in my living room,” Miller said. “It took them six months to come and see about the mold. When they did come, they sprayed it, and the mold came back. They came back and sprayed it with bleach but didn’t paint over it. You can still see the spot. It looks like a shabby job.”
Nonika Moye, 36, a single-mother whose daughter has asthma, lives one floor above Moseley. She pointed to three similar spots on her ceiling in her living room.
“I know something is wrong up there, because it smells like mold,” Moye, a seven-year resident, said. “It smells wet there.”
The patio door and a window in her apartment are broken, and she cannot open them to let in fresh air.
“I told them that,” she said. “They claimed they were ordering me a new window and I haven’t seen it yet.”
Each resident said they have called the office multiple times, have visited the office in person, and written notes, but the management staff is slow to respond.
They treat us like we’re third-class citizens
Keith Miller, 52
The fire extinguisher outside Moye’s door has a tag that says it expired in 2008. The three residents say none of their apartments have sprinklers.
“So if a fire happens, you just have to get out,” Miller said.
Asked why they don’t move, Miller said he would move if he could find another apartment where he pays $126 a month in rent. But he said just because he receives federal subsidies doesn’t mean he should have to live in substandard housing. “They treat us like we’re third-class citizens,” he said.
Moye and Moseley agreed. They said they don’t want to move because their neighbors are like family.
But Lawada Hopkins, 24, moved last month after living in the complex for four years. A sewage backup in the apartment above hers created big problems.
Hopkins, an in-home nursing assistant for Duke, said her dog was in the window, barking at her when she came home that day. When she opened the door, he darted out and sewage water spilled out.
Everything in her apartment was covered. There wasn’t much she could salvage.
“I had to throw away everything,” she said.
Hopkins didn’t have renter’s insurance and management told her to get another apartment in the complex she would have to put down a deposit and continue paying on her old apartment until the lease expired.
Hopkins says she is considering taking her case to small claims court.
“I told them six or seven times that there was something wrong with the pipes,” Hopkins said.
Employees in the complex management office Wednesday declined to comment.
Michael Jamison, the president of the Matthews-based Multi-Family Select Inc., which manages the property, declined to go into details about the plan to bring the apartment back up to HUD standards.
“We’re working on it and it’s a work in progress,” Jamison said, adding that his company responds to residents’ complaints in a timely manner.
Stabilis, a private New York City-based investment company, which bought Forest Hills in February, is looking to put the property up for sale.
Efforts to reach Stabilis were unsuccessful.
Stabilis took over the loan for the complex in 2013 and earlier this year bought the property for $5.3 million.
Town officials contacted this week said the fire department inspects Forest Hills every three years as they do other apartment complexes. But inspectors rarely go inside individual homes, unless there is a complaint, said Tony Beasley, the inspections director for the town.
Beasley said there are currently some problems with the water valves, but the apartment complex is getting them fixed.
Beasley said since he was hired in September, the department has not issued any infractions against the complex.
In January 2010, there were illegal drop cords, paint buckets and a fire extinguisher that didn’t work, according to an inspections report. Beasley said it was fixed a month later.
“They’ve all been very minor infractions that they have immediately corrected each time,” Beasley said. “We’ve never really had any major fire code violations.”