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

CLEVELAND -

Whether it’s the large group of rats that won’t move out, the faulty plumbing fixtures or the appliances that don’t work, residents of a series of apartment buildings on Cleveland’s east side said management has continued to prove ineffective, leading to a laundry list of maintenance-related issues.

Tenants of Boardwalk Apartments said the issues at their units are similar to those at Park Place Apartments, which is owned and managed by the same Michigan-based companies.

For the past three weeks, News 5 has been investigating Park Place apartments and the maintenance-related issues prevalent at some of the units at the sprawling complex. Prompted by complaints from citizens and Councilman Kevin Conwell, inspectors from the Cleveland Department of Building and Housing will be inspecting the federally-subsidized apartment units at the complex, Conwell said.

Issues at Park Place include persistent leaks from the roof and plumbing fixtures, the presence of mold, broken furnaces and air conditioning units, and stoves and ovens that don't work.

One tenant’s leaky ceiling from an upstairs shower caused the floor in her dining room to begin to rot. At one point, mushrooms began to grow.

While admitting her unit is not as bad as some at Park Place, Boardwalk Apartments tenant Yovette Cummings said the conditions have, at times, been deplorable.

“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.”

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

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.

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

“It is very frustrating. It angers me,” Cummings said. “I don’t know if I felt like I was in a dream because I am actually doing it.”

Cummings said property management, a company called Independent Management Services, has been slow to act on repairs and pest remediation – if at all. All winter, she said she went without a working furnace. Instead, she had to use the stove and boiled water to generate heat.

RELATED: Management addresses unsanitary living conditions in apartment following local news report

In December, Cummings said she was without a toilet for more than two weeks. It wasn’t until a HUD inspector noticed the missing toilet during an annual inspection that property management provided a new one, Cummings said.

“The management says, ‘You still don’t have a toilet?’ I told them, ‘You know I don’t have a toilet,’” Cummings said. “I’ve complained every day about no toilet. We’re using buckets when we’re here. Imagine trying to use a bathroom in a bucket.”

A company representative for both Independent Management Services and the owners, American Community Developers, 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.

As for Cummings' allegations that she was without heat all winter and without a toilet for two weeks, the company representative vehemently denies them. Additionally, property management has an "aggressive monthly pest remediation" program, the representative said. However, the representative told News 5 he would send maintenance to Cummings' apartment to eradicate the mice on Wednesday morning.

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

“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.”

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

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