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Rodents, roaches, other problems persist at low-income housing development

Posted at 5:16 PM, Jul 19, 2018

Between the rodents, roaches and ticked-off tenants, issues persist at a series of low-income apartment buildings on Cleveland’s east side. Tenants allege management has been slow to respond to their concerns – if it all.

Boardwalk Apartments, a series of 20 buildings scattered across the east side, has been under the microscope by City Councilman Kevin Conwell and others who have fielded concerns from angry tenants.

RELATED: Councilman believes conditions of apartment unit show systemic issues

The low-income housing developments are owned and managed by the same two Michigan-based companies that also own Park Place Apartments. Late last month, inspectors from Cleveland’s Rental Inspection Unit joined the city’s health department in a wide-ranging inspection of the 122-unit complex. Results of those inspections are still pending. When those inspections were announced, several Boardwalk tenants reached out to News 5 with concerns about their units, including rodent infestations, electrical and plumbing issues, and mold.

RELATED: Of Mice and Mushrooms: Tenant alleges frequent leaks in apartment cause mold, fungus growth

Shanice Black said those issues are all too familiar. She has lived at the Boardwalk Apartments building on Barrett Avenue since December. She also lived at two other units at Boardwalk Apartments but was forced to move because of persistent mold issues, she said. Her newest unit has a roach infestation, despite the fact that her unit remains clean and tidy, she said.

“It’s most definitely a health hazard. I really want to say it, but I don’t want to say it: if you have a child picking up a roach saying, ‘what is this?’ How much of a health hazard is that?” Black said. “I keep up with my rent. I keep everything up and the apartment’s nice. What’s so hard for them to keep the bugs away?”

The roach problem continues to persist despite her repeated attempts to have management bring in an exterminator. Black said she’s frequently left frustrated, claiming her complaints fall of deaf ears. The problem has gotten so bad, she said she no longer spends much time at the apartment unit.

“Until management gets this together, I’m going to continue to stay at my mother’s house and keep my kids away from these conditions,” Black said.

When News 5 toured Black’s apartment on Thursday afternoon, roaches could be seen on the walls, doors and inside the cabinets. Her attempts to control the problem with off-the-shelf pest spray have proven unsuccessful.

In addition to the pest-related issues, her bathroom sink drain continues to remain clogged. Black also reports hearing rodents, including mice, tip-tattering inside of the walls. Sometimes the rats come through a hole in the kitchen wall near the floor, she said.

The exterior stairway at the six-unit apartment building is also unsafe. Some of the stair treads are missing, posing an obvious safety hazard. There are also exposed nails and screws.

“I’m still waiting for them to come exterminate and handle the problems,” Black said. “That’s not my problem. I have a nice, clean home and I keep my home clean. I have younger children. I never had to live like that and I don’t want my children living like that. I’m sure [management] isn’t living like that.”

Other tenants of different Boardwalk Apartments buildings have had similar issues.

Yovette Cummings said the conditions have, at times, been deplorable. In the main living room in her quaint, two bedroom apartment, Cummings points to the small strips of wood and spray foam lining the bottom of all the walls. It’s also in the kitchen. And the bathroom. And both bedrooms.

RELATED: Rat-infested apartment with no toilet and no heat all winter, tenants left with nowhere to go

The temporary solution is intended to keep the mice at bay. It hasn’t worked.

“I have a daughter. Mice are in her bed. She can’t sleep. She’s jumping in my bed. Then we jump out of my bed because now the mice are in my bed,” Cummings said. “[The rats] eat my food. If I can barely afford to pay rent and things, how am I going to keep buying food? I can’t feed the rats and me and my daughter.”

A former employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said the property’s maintenance staff was routinely hamstrung by upper levels of management.

RELATED: Former worker of embattled property company: 'They're slumlords. I use that with a lot of emphasis'

“I thought I could come here and make a major change, and management wouldn’t allow me to do that at all,” the former employee said. “I just looked at it like they didn’t want to spend any money. Why would we have to spend money when we get government subsidies? It’s the reason I had to leave. Money doesn’t mean anything to me when I see the residents, especially the small children, living in that filth and with rodents living with them like they’re brothers and sisters. I couldn’t do that.”

A company representative for both Independent Management Services and the owners, American Community Developers, has previously said the issues at Park Place and Boardwalk are isolated to only a couple of units. The company representative said management completes repairs as quickly as possible. Property management also has an “aggressive monthly pest remediation” program.

Because the apartments offer government-subsidized housing, they routinely go through federal inspections by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD officials did not return requests for comment on Thursday. During its most recent inspection in December 2017, Boardwalk Apartments earned a score of 71. A score of 60 is considered passing.

RELATED: 'She had to fight rodents off so her kids could eat,' apt. complex to be inspected by officials