RICHMOND, Va. – A South Richmond property management company avoided court and a threat of condemnation, and some renters saw the return of their hot water after months without it. On Wednesday, a judge was to decide the fate of Richmond residents living at Ashton Square Apartments. Many tenants had begun packing up their bags after a city official said they expected three buildings would be condemned.
Some residents said they had been without water since June 2015, some since September.
Management at the apartment complex blamed the issue on a broken boiler, but some residents said that they lived over eight months without hot water despite constantly reporting the problem.
Preventative work was supposed to be done on Tuesday, but a city inspector told crews to stop because there was no proper permitting acquired, according to resident Lester Baccus.
"How would you even feel?” asked resident Shannon Darby. “I don't have anywhere to go," she said, "I gave them my rent money."
The problem originated from a corroded thermostat on the hot water tank, according to Parker Agelasto, 5th District Councilman. He said it was a job that should've been completed in a day and not taken six months.
Parker said city inspectors are working with management to address the water problems and other violations, through a corrective action plan.
The sprawling, 11.1 acre apartment complex is off Westover Hills Boulevard, and offers a total of 372 units.The 32 multi-level buildings were built in 1962, according to city records.
The property, managed by KRS Holdings aka Great Richmond Rentals, was recently assessed at just over $15 million. Weinstein Properties sold the 53-year-old property in Dec. 2014, for $17.54 million, according to reports.
KRS Holdings provides property management services for Ashton Square, and thousands of properties throughout Richmond and Tidewater. CBS 6 previously reported about a similar situation which happened to tenants living in the Broadway East apartments in Hopewell.
City of Hopewell officials condemned the property after finding mold, human waste and sewage in the basement of the apartment complex.
Residents interviewed in that report said that they contacted code enforcement officials who they said knew the landlord knew about the issues, but never went to tenants.
The conditions at the property were said, by city officials, to be “unsafe and unsanitary and pose a threat to the health, safety and welfare of the residents.”
CBS 6 has made multiple attempts to interview KRS Holdings but they have declined to talk on camera.
“We are in daily contact with our residents," said Operations Manager Jennifer Whitlock, in an interview Tuesday. "We continue to work diligently to resolve the issues."
The company, listed on the BBB website as Great Richmond Rentals, maintains a A- score. A BBB representative said that the size of the business and the time they have been open is what helps with that score. They also added that the rating could change when a government entity gets involved, as happened in this case.
"We're going to take a look at what we get, what comes down, what the city's action says, and what the government action is," said BBB spokesman Tom Gallagher.
"The complaint volume based on the size of the company is in line with others," explained Barbara Homiller.
The BBB also looked at how many complaints a business receives.
“Several years ago we started publishing the actual complaints, along with the companies response to that, and we recommend that customers read those and the way the company is trying to resolve the issue," Homiller said.
"We also publish customer reviews but we don’t publish until we confirm that customer does use the business," she said. That relationship is checked on both ends, and sometimes, when needed, confirmed with documentation.
“We would encourage customers to look at the reviews," Homiller said.
According to a legal expert, tenants can file a warrant in debt against the landlord for the rent they paid. But he said the tenant must prove they're current on their rent and provide written notice to the landlord about the problem. Going forward, the expert said, the rent could be put in escrow.