Tenants of troubled, foreclosed apartment building hope to vacate its units

May 31, 2012
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It’s been more than a month since a new property management company took over a troubled foreclosed apartment building in Austin, but tenants say the repairs they’ve asked for haven’t happened and they want to leave.

The property management company, Peak Properties, said in court last Wednesday that it doesn’t have the funds to assist the 17 tenants at 5159 W. West End Ave. in finding a new place to live, said Elce Redmond, an organizer with the South Austin Community Coalition.

He added there are still bedbugs, roaches and mold in most of the apartment units. And tenants “wake up to the sound of rats in the walls.”

AustinTalks reported on the building’s condition earlier this month.

Janelle Teague said she’s sick and tired of staying in the deplorable conditions – which include bedbugs, roaches, rats and a non-flushable toilet – but she needs to stick around for at least another month to save money to move somewhere else.

She said she doesn’t want to rush to move out, because she has six kids and doesn’t want to fall into a similar situation — living in a building that’s not being maintained and is in foreclosure.

“They haven’t set foot in my apartment,” Teague said. “I have plenty of emergency issues in my apartment, and they still haven’t came.”

Another tenant Pamela Johnson agreed that she doesn’t want to stay in her unit anymore, but she needs help moving.

“Just give me housing,” she said outside her building May 26.

She said there have been some improvements to the building since the new receiver stepped in, but she calls them “cover ups.”

“They did the vacant apartments, and they did the hallways,” she said. “The hallways are not done properly. They did not replace any of the boards that needed to be replaced; they just painted over it and hit the nails down that came from out of the carpet.”

Work  is done in some of the tenants apartments, but not everybody’s, she said.

“I’ve still got holes around my boarder of my floor in between the carpet where you can stick your hand in there,” she said, adding that there’s bedbugs and rats in her unit as well.

Teague said that Mike Zucker, with Peak Properties, which has taken over the building temporarily while it’s in foreclosure, told her to rid the apartments of bedbugs, it would cost $800 to $1,000 per apartment, and he doesn’t have the money to do it.

“He said I’m not going to take care of the mold or the bedbugs, because it costs too much, that’s what he said in court,” Teague said. “And that’s a shame.”

The only way to rectify the building, Johnson said, is to vacate it.

“We already know we are going to have to move out, but they really don’t want to give all of us in here assistance to move out,” she said.

Johnson said if she stays in the building much longer, the building’s receiver and owner, Berkat Property Management Co., will have a “lawsuit on their hands.”

“You’d rather have a lawsuit smacked up against your head, than to give us money to move out?” Johnson said. “That doesn’t make sense. You guys have the money. The bank has the money.”

The tenants and Zucker went to court May 29. That’s when the tenants learned the building has a potential buyer — the Chicago-based non-profit mortgage lender Community Investment Corp., which buys and rehabs apartment buildings. Community Initiatives Inc., a subsidiary of Community Investment Corp., stepped in last month at the city’s request to help with emergency repairs to the building, AustinTalks reported.

Teague said now that Community Initiatives Corp. has indicated an interest in purchasing the property, Zucker has refused to help with her and the other tenant’s relocation.

Redmond said at the last court data there wasn’t much talk about vacating the tenants, but that’s something that could come up.

“There may be something that they will say, but we’ll see,” he said.

The next court date to decide whether Zucker steps out as receiver or if he’ll stay in and work on the building will be June 12.

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