a question of upkeep

Tenants of crumbling apartment complex angered by conditions Braden Power to buy and refurbish building

the dallas morning news

August 1995

Charles Qrnstein Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News


Rick and Crystal Wilborn marked a month of living at the Lakewood Apartments on Tuesday.

It was also the day their living room ceiling collapsed. The Wilborns are among dozens of tenants at the
complex in the 6000 block of Gaston Avenue in East Dallas who say they have not had their maintenance
requests answered in more than a month.

They complain of raw sewage in their apartments, broken faucets, roaches, and unlocked vacant apartments that attract vandals.

The tenants also got a notice on their doors recently that their electricity will be shut off Aug. 9 if the owners do not pay the TU Electric bill for the complex.

'I can't live under these circumstances,` Mrs. Wilborn said, after pointing out her broken faucets and a leak
underneath her kitchen sink. `I really can't.`

One of the owners of the complex, who asked that his name not be used, acknowledged that problems exist
at the apartment building, although he blamed some on tenants. He said repairs will be made once the
property is sold on Aug. 15.

At that time, if the city approves, Braden Power Properties is expected to take over the complex from MPR
Inc., which has owned it for five years.

In the meantime, the electric bill will be paid to avoid a shutdown and the Wilborns' ceiling will be repaired, the owner said.

On Tuesday, the front office of the Lakewood Apartment complex was empty except for a lawn mower, weed trimmer and phone books. The phone number for the complex was disconnected.

The owner said the management company hired to run the property left at the end of last year. Since then, a representative from the Nacogdoches, Texasbased MPR has visited the site about once a week.

The complex, which has been cited with numerous code violations since 1992, is under a demolition order,
according to Susie Hughes, supervisor of the multifamily inspection group for the city's division of streets,
sanitation and codes enforcement. MPR obtained a temporary restraining order, preventing the city from
tearing down the building.

Apartment tenants, who pay $400 to $500 a month in rent, say the demolition order is justified. But they said they wonder where they will go if the complex is torn down.

`Water is leaking from our air conditioning, and raw sewage is coming through the commode,` said Ruby
Montgomery, who has lived in the complex for four months. `I think we got a raw deal out of it. We're steadily paying our rent and now we have to find somewhere to go unexpectedly.`

Efforts to contact apartment officials have proved futile, Ms. Montgomery said.

Dallas City Council member Craig McDaniel, who lives near the Lakewood Apartments, said the complex is
not the only problematic property in the area `There are apartment complexes like this one up and down Gaston and Live Oak, and to a certain extent, Columbia and Ross,` he said. `This one has just fallen into the trap of being a consistent code enforcement problem.`

That's no consolation for tenants such as Linda Gonzales.

Ms. Gonzales, who has three children, said her bathroom does not work and she cannot wash her dishes in
her kitchen sink because her plumbing has backed up.

`Where else am I going to go?` she said, sitting beneath a rotting wood awning in the complex. `I'm trying to look for another place. But we don't know whether to stay or leave. All we want to know is whether they are going to fix the place or not.`

Tony Boudreaux has lived with a foot hole in his ceiling since he moved in two months ago. After repeated
complaints to the maintenance men who live in the complex, he said he has come to overlook the problem.
`You just stop asking them when they keep telling you the same story,` Mr. Boudreaux said. `Just about
everybody has something wrong in their apartment around here.`

James Roberts, a part time maintenance worker at the complex, said the current tenants are to blame for
many of the problems.

`Ninety percent of it is because of the tenants,` Mr. Roberts said. `Everybody's got a problem. The real
problem is that they get drunk and knock holes in the walls, and they get drunk and break windows.`
The owner said MPR Inc. has spent large sums on upkeep over the last five years, including $30,000 to
repair the outdoor walkway.

`We have made no money on that complex since 1989,` he said.

`All we've done is spend money. I know at this point in time, you probably can't see it. But there's been an
enormous amount of money put into that thing.`


PHOTO(S): 1. Tony Boudreaux points to a hole in the ceiling of his apartment in the Lakewood Apartment
complex.; 2. Christopher Murrell, 7, and Zeonta Horton, 6, look inside one of the vacant, gutted apartments in
the Lakewood Apartment complex on Gaston Avenue. (12:
DMN: Judy Walgren)
Copyright 1995 The Dallas Morning News Company