A low-income apartment complex with a slew of safety and environmental issues, including mushrooms, mice and mold, remains under the city’s microscope as the Cleveland Department of Health issues citations against the property owners and managers, Councilman Kevin Conwell said Tuesday.
In late June, officials from the city’s Rental Inspection Unit as well as the health department canvassed the 122-unit complex at Park Place Apartments. The three-day inspections came as many tenants alleged management and ownership of the low-income apartment complex failed to keep up with maintenance. The issues included stubborn mold that festered and grew, shoddy electrical and plumbing, as well as doors that wouldn’t shut or lock. In one case, a tenant said mushrooms, fed by persistent plumbing leaks, began to grow from the subfloor.
Other tenants complained about numerous rats and other rodents that had made a home inside their apartment walls.
As part of the lengthy inspection, city officials were tasked with ensuring the apartment units are safe, sanitary, clean, maintained, and pest and contaminant-free. Inspectors will also make sure the unit’s air conditioning and heating works.
“The department of health has hit them with some violations, some environmental violations,” said Councilman Kevin Conwell. “I wanted to see the violations but they didn’t show it to me. However, they sent a checklist to the management company telling them what they need to do. The health department has to work with the management company. If [the management company] doesn’t hit their benchmarks by a certain point in time, we’ll move forward and kick it off to the housing court judge and take them to court.”
City officials have not specified whether the inspections were prompted by complaints. Officials from Michigan-based companies American Community Developers and Independent Management Services, who own and manage the complex, downplayed the inspections, calling them "routine."
Ever since the inspections were completed, some tenants told News 5 they noticed a discernable increase in maintenance-related activity at the complex. Michael Coleman, a tenant for the past five years, said it appears the rodent remediation is working.
“Lately, I haven’t been seeing as many mice… [there are] a couple of other things they need to do though,” Coleman said. “They came in and did a lot of things. They painted my apartment [and are] working on the carpet right now. Right now, they’re patching everything. But they’re trying their best to keep up. If not, then we’re going to have to move and get out of here.”
Councilman Conwell said he will continue to push for city inspections to occur at Park Place’s sister properties, Boardwalk and Glenville Apartments. Both low-income developments are also owned and managed by American Community Developers and Independent Management Services, respectfully. A company representative said both entities remain dedicated to working closely with city officials.
“They’re not benefiting the residents. They’re not helping people. They’re not taking residents out of abject poverty. They need to start working on it because we’re coming to Boardwalk also,” Councilman Conwell said. “I already talked to the health director this morning.”
Councilman Conwell said he’s also pledging to personally visit the properties once every three months to ensure the properties don’t fall back into a state of disrepair.
“How do you expect children to go to school and learn when they hear and have to deal with rats, mice, rodents and mushrooms?” Councilman Conwell said. “They can‘t go learn. They can’t study.”
Officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have not returned requests for comment.