AUSTELL — Mold, leaky roofs, rats and other issues continue to plague residents of three apartment complexes in Austell, despite the county government getting involved and the local courts hearing 84 code violations against the owners.
A meeting for residents of the Parkview Apartments, Kingsley Village and Hunter’s Grove complexes on Riverside Parkway became heated on Monday when emotional and frustrated renters demanded better living conditions — something they’ve been doing for months.
Stephanie Burris, who lives in Parkview Apartments with her brother and his 16-year-old daughter, says the teenager is getting asthma due to mold.
Rats and mice aren’t even the worst of the apartment building’s rodent problem, Burris said.
“We have possums! Why should we pay $855 a month in rent when we’re getting sick and we’re not happy?”
Burris was one of a dozen residents of the three apartment complexes at the 11:30 a.m. meeting, also attended by a dozen staff from the Atlanta-based property management company Amifor Management.
Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Boyce and District 4 Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who represents the area, were also present, as were Cobb Police Chief Tim Cox, Precinct 2 Commander Major Craig Owens and a handful of code enforcement members.
Burris said her stove and toilet were replaced last week but she had been waiting for months to be moved to a better apartment, having stressed her concerns repeatedly since February.
She said a woman renting an apartment below hers had to be moved because her children had been taken to the emergency department for mold-related health issues.
“We’ve been told that everybody needs to be out of the building we’re in, that it needs to be repaired. We’re tired of complaining . . . it’s not fair to us . . . how many times do we have to stress the problem?”
Burris said she’d move if she had a choice.
Garnell Hodge, a Kingsley Village resident, also spoke at the meeting about ongoing leaks, mold and mildew in the two-bedroom apartment she rents for $800 a month with her husband and their grandchildren aged 8 and 4.
“My bedroom, the master bedroom, is full of mold and I’ve had to throw a lot of my belongings away,” she said. “My bathroom is leaking, I’m mopping like four times a day, there’s a lot of water and mildew and the problems are getting worse.”
Another Kingsley Village resident told property managers at the meeting that all the lights around the complex’s dumpster are out and residents are arming themselves with weapons just to take out their garbage at night because they’re scared to do so in the pitch black.
Tushanda Daniels, Amifor Management’s regional manager for the Austell area and the property manager for Parkview Apartments, said her team has been working hard since taking over management of the three complexes in March.
She said roofs have been repaired, security gates have been installed, and residents have been moved to new apartments upon request.
Daniels acknowledged there is still a lot of work to do, and encouraged residents to make their concerns in writing so work orders can continue to be acted upon.
“This is a work in progress,” she said. “We can’t fix in three months what’s been broken for years, but we want to do things to help the residents.”
Daniels said her team is dealing with hundreds of complaints about conditions at the three apartment properties and where possible she will move residents or let them out of leases if they find somewhere better to live.
“It’s been four months and we’re still cleaning up,” she told residents at the meeting. “We came into the same thing you came into but we’re trying to make it better, that’s our job, but you’ve got to play your part and do your due diligence.”
The Parkview Apartments, Kingsley Village and Hunter’s Grove complexes were purchased in 2015 for $6.4 million by a group of Canadian investors under the company Trinity Parkview LLC.
Kerrison Chin, one of three owners, is named as the defendant in the 84 code violations brought against the company in regards to poor conditions at its Austell properties.
He requested a jury trial in March, moving the case from the Cobb Magistrate Court to the State Court and delaying action for residents.
Monica DeLancy, founder and executive director of We Thrive in Riverside Renters Association, said an arraignment, or formal reading of charges, for the case is due to be held in the Cobb County State Court this week.
DeLancy convened the 11:30 a.m. meeting and another at 6 p.m. inside Kingsley Village at 595 Riverside Parkway and told the MDJ she hopes to engage more residents in the neighborhood and train some of them to become “captains” for individual apartment complexes who can take residents’ concerns to quarterly meetings going forward.
A former Parkview Apartments resident, DeLancy now lives down the street and said she hopes the apartment owners are fined and the money is used to improve conditions for residents.
That’s also a goal of Boyce, who has met with owner Chin to discuss ongoing concerns.
“I’ve seen the owner here twice in the last six months,” Boyce said at the meeting. “I wish people could see what I see, that there are decent human beings who live here with families and they simply want to have the right thing done.”
Boyce promised to visit the apartment complexes weekly until conditions for residents improve.
He apologized for not acting sooner, but assured the tenants he’s committed to resolving what he called “a mess.”
“I acknowledge your frustration, and trust me, on a big picture level I’m just as frustrated as you are because we can see what needs to be done,” Boyce said. “We believe we can work together to resolve these issues but it’s important to have realistic expectations about what we can accomplish given the limitations of the law.”
Chief Cox also reminded residents the legal process against property owners can be slow and he urged patience, offering to be a sounding board for unhappy tenants in the meantime.
“I’d be happy to take your call,” he said, after giving out his office phone number. “Please reach out to us.”
Maj. Owens, who leads the police precinct covering Austell, said concerns relating to the former property managers of the three apartment complexes are now part of an investigation by his team as well as “the feds” to determine whether any criminal charges should be issued.
He told the MDJ no charges or arrests have been made to date.