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They were given just hours to pack after Richmond apartment fails inspection

Posted at 11:39 PM, Oct 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 19:03:39-05

RICHMOND, Va. --Dozens of people living at a downtown Richmond apartment were given just hours to pack their bags Friday, after the building failed an inspection.

Friday afternoon CBS 6 observed residents moving furniture, people stranded outside with grocery karts filled with belongings, a disabled elderly man worried he wouldn't have access to his wheelchair, and families with children rushing in and out, carrying loads of boxes and bags to their car.

"We was panicking. Like everyone woke up out their sleep to this," said Kristen Garland.

The long-time resident said tenants received a knock on their door by maintenance Friday, telling them they needed to be out.

A spokesperson for the Richmond Fire Department said in a building inspection Friday morning, the City of Richmond Fire Marshal’s Office and City of Richmond Department of Planning and Review deemed the 4th Street building unsafe.

Resident Destiny McClendon said there had been very little communication from the property manager.

"Like you’re knocking on our doors telling us we need to get out, but we don’t know where to go," said McClendon. "Every resident is asking each other for information."

She added that the situation felt like a mass, same-day eviction.

"At the end of the day everyone pays their own rent," McClendon said.

A city spokesperson and spokesperson for the Richmond Fire Department cited multiple serious life safety issues with the Grace Place apartment building which needed to be addressed by the property owner. Those issues included fire suppression systems not working properly, elevator issues, and alarm panels not working, as well as potential issues with the structure of the building.

Amy Vu with the Richmond Fire Department said before people could return to the building, those things need to be addressed.

She also said a structural engineer needed to ensure the building was structurally sound and produce a report to support that finding.

"It is the responsibility of the property owner/property management to notify the tenants and to handle temporary living arrangements for them," said Vu.

But she added that the City of Richmond was doing what it could to help the tenants -- working to get people out and accommodated as quickly as possible.

"Some of them are being assisted by the Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority, HomeAgain and Virginia Supportive Housing. Staff with the Department of Social Services have stayed on site with credit vouchers for any tenants still in need," Vu said.

In the meantime, residents were left with an unclear timeline of when they could come home, and no answers as to why those in charge let it come to this.

"It’s not right. And I feel like they should give us an explanation," said Garland. "...I just pray for us."

CBS 6 attempted to speak with the property manager while on site Friday, but the property manager declined to respond.

A similar scenario played out in 2013, after a sprinkler malfunction left the high rise condemned and dozens of residents homeless.