Feds face fines of up to $ 800,000 after South Side landlord admitted water problems and pest infestation persisted for months
KENWOOD – The owner of the Ellis Lakeview Apartments – under pressure from residents, the city and the federal government to make repairs – could face fines of up to $ 800,000 for failing to maintain “safe and hygienic” living conditions on the apartment Guarantee property from Kenwood said.
Residents of Ellis Lakeview, an affordable residential tower at 4624 S. Ellis Ave., have been calling on owner Apex Chicago IL for more than a year to resolve plumbing, pest, and other issues.
Apex bought Ellis Lakeview in August 2019 for $ 10.75 million, according to Chicago Cityscape. Under the supervision of Apex and property manager Integra Affordable Management, the building failed 26 city inspections and found 157 violations of the Code.
“I’m at the point where I’m ready to move and I have no space,” Ellis Lakeview resident Nadrea Satchell told a press conference on Wednesday. “It’s just very uninhabitable.”
Apex and Integra face fines of more than $ 800,000 for allegedly violating the terms of their federal subsidies, according to documents Block Club received.
Federal housing officials cited Apex and Integra in early 2021 for failing to provide “decent, safe, and hygienic housing”.
In May, officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development threatened companies with fines of up to $ 278,677. Inspections up to this point revealed water problems, insects and rodents throughout the property, and health and safety hazards in three units.
Apex was aware of issues with Ellis Lakeview’s water system back in November 2020, but hot water pressure remained low through at least August, housing authorities said.
“Morning work like washing the breakfast dishes [and] showering or even doing regular chores has become a really big chore, “Ellis Lakeview resident Nadrea Satchell said on Wednesday. “We have to boil water to even have a hot shower or to wash our dishes. They have known that for a long time and they have never looked at the subject. “
A property manager wrote to a pest control company that the property was “covered in cockroaches, bed bugs and mice” in November 2020, but the vermin “infestation” continued through April, officials said.
After nine months of unsolved water issues and another inspection that found dangers in nine other homes, Apex housing and urban development threatened again with fines in October – this time of up to $ 523,666.
Housing and Urban Development has also charged Integra with improperly managing finances and tenant records. A review of 11 files “revealed such a widespread regulatory failure” that investigators requested a review of the files of every resident in the 105-unit building.
Credit: Maxwell Evans / Block Club ChicagoThe Ellis Lakeview Apartment Building, 4624 S. Ellis Ave. in Kenwood.
Federal officials directed Apex to terminate Integra’s contract and hire another property manager in March. Why that didn’t happen is unclear.
The spokespersons for housing and urban development could not be reached to comment before the editorial deadline.
Rep. Bobby Rush, Senator Robert Peters, and Ald. Sophia King (4th) is one of the elected representatives who supported tenants’ demands to replace Integra with an independent property manager.
In addition to the building repairs and the request to put the building under administrative administration, the tenants are demanding that Apex and Integra provide around-the-clock security in the complex.
The gate to the property’s parking lot has been broken open for several months after a driver crashed into it, local resident Arthur Evans said. He would also like to see one or two more security guards hired and the landlords building their own office for the security team, he said.
The security situation is “as if we were staying in a house with the doors open,” said Evans. “It should be like that [more] safe in here. “
City lawyers filed a housing complaint against Apex on March 26. A lawsuit against Ellis Lakeview is pending, with the next hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
In that case, Apex and Integra attorneys asked a Cook County judge to withdraw the court order so the companies could address issues at Ellis Lakeview.
The October 12th order required repairs to bathtubs, sewer systems, a wall, tiles and ventilation covers in various apartments in Ellis Lakeview. Companies were also required to post contact information so tenants could come forward with repairs and other property management concerns.
Local residents failed to properly file their complaints, which led to the court order, so the order should be dismissed, attorney Shomshon Moskowitz wrote in a motion last month.
Moskowitz also urged the court to prevent tenants from complaining about living conditions at future court hearings and to exclude non-living organizers “from further participation” in the hearings.
Moskowitz declined to answer whether Apex and Integra had completed the court-ordered repairs or whether the companies were adding security personnel at Ellis Lakeview.
Apex’s connections to other troubled affordable residential properties are red flags, tenants said. District-level court documents, tax returns, and records show links between the owner of Ellis Lakeview and these companies:
- Accommodation for non-profit JPC charities that own two apartment complexes in Indianapolis through its subsidiary Fox Lake AHF. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita sued Fox Lake in July, alleging the company allowed the complexes “to deteriorate into monstrous decline, endangering the health and well-being of thousands of residents.” A judge denied the state’s motion to appoint a bankruptcy administrator in September.
- Apex Colonial OH, the owner of the Colonial Village apartments in Columbus, Ohio. Colonial Village was declared a public harassment in August by a judge who called the situation at the 508-unit complex “one of the most worrying cases of public harassment this court has ever seen,” according to the Columbus Dispatch.
- Apex Big Chateau AR, the owner of affordable apartments in Little Rock, Arkansas that went without gas and hot water for months during the winter of 2019-2020.
- The Better Housing Foundation, which was the subject of an investigation by the Chicago Tribune in 2018. The Tribune found that living conditions in 64 of the Foundation’s 81 Chicago properties were “so poor that the Chicago Housing Authority has banned its beneficiaries” from living there. As the tenants lived in misery, the foundation’s members earned millions of dollars in fees.
Arthur Evans, a resident of Ellis Lakeview, speaks to a reporter during the press conference outside the affordable Kenwood apartment complex on Wednesday.
Listen to It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast here: