ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- People who live in the Allen Hills Apartments on Middleton Road in Northwest Atlanta say they are living in unacceptable conditions.
They tell CBS46 that many of their apartments, which were recently renamed "The Commons," are infested with rodents, structurally unsound, unhealthy, and unsafe for living.
“Early in the morning I take my broomstick and tap it so the rats can scatter and so I won’t be stepping on none of them,” said April Verdell who attended a press conference about the conditions on Thursday morning.
“I have to turn on all the lights and stuff in order to make the rats go back to where they come behind the refrigerator and behind my stove and sometimes they still don’t’ go,” Verdell said. "I have to turn on the lights and look on the floor, really look on the floor to make sure I’m not stepping on them,” said the mother who says she is afraid for herself, her teenage son, and one-year-old daughter who live in the apartment with her.
Residents sent in cell phone video of their rat traps, covered each day with rodents.
Attorney Antavius Weems announced he is suing the new property owners Preservation Partners Management Group, a management company out of California.
“We are asking the court to shut Allen Hills down,” Weems said Thursday. “We are asking the court to make a determination that this place [is] inhabitable and that humans nor even animals should be able to live here,” saying residents need to be given temporary housing until the units are suitable for them to live in.
Atlanta City Council members Andrea Boone and Michael Bond stand in support of Weems’ efforts. They tell CBS46 they’ve had more than 20 meetings with management and very little action aside from renovations in other buildings has taken place. Bond said the management at Allen Hills has given them nothing but “lip service.”
“We are going to start with the regional director of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),” Bond told CBS46. “We are going to reach out to her office and make sure that they do an inspection of this location. Second, we are going to go straight to Dr. Ben Carson, someone who I know personally, and say look, you’ve got to manage this program better. You’ve got to manage the program that is receiving our federal tax dollars better,” Bond went on.
At least one resident told CBS46 they’ve reported the problems to HUD.
When CBS46’s Hayley Mason contacted HUD’s regional and national offices, a spokesperson said they were not aware of the issues at Allen Hills until CBS46 contacted them, but would be looking into their reports for complaints.
“HUD is concerned about the reported living conditions at Allen Hills Apartments and is looking into this serious matter and has reached out to the National Housing Compliance and property management to get an update,” the spokesperson said. “HUD has every expectation that property management will address these issues and will take the necessary actions to ensure appropriate compliance,” he continued commenting on the more than 450 unit property.
Richard Robins, the attorney for Preservation Partners, told Mason he was disappointed to learn that Weems announced the lawsuit to reporters before notifying the management group that took over the apartments in March of 2018.
Robbins told CBS46 that the property was in serious disrepair when they acquired it, but they have been rehabilitating it building by building.
CBS46 saw several construction teams working on renovations to some of the buildings. Some residents however say their renovated units are structurally unsound. One mother said the ceiling caved in in her renovated unit.
Robbins said the group “has allocated over $27 million for the Property renovations, none of which is funded by the City of Atlanta. However, given the size of the Property, rehabilitation of all units will take some time,” he wrote in a statement. “To ensure an orderly process for the substantial renovations, Preservation Partners must close various buildings or parts thereof, relocate tenants to available units, and renovate on a rolling basis.”
He says the company is working to complete the renovations by Spring 2020.
HUD’s regional spokesman told CBS46 that if resident’s issues are not being resolved by management they are encouraged to contact HUD’s contract administrator, the National Housing Compliance at 770-939-3939, or toll free at 1-888-530-8266. The TTY (Hearing Impaired) number is 877-349-8100.