Residents of Cleveland apartment building say they live in terrible conditions and accuse owners of not responding to problems

Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 10:52 PM EDT

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Some residents who live in The Colony Apartments in Cleveland say they’re living in conditions that are unacceptable. They’re concerned the issues could even further endanger their health, and all because they say new owners of the apartments fail to show up and address the problems.

Jerome Saunders who is already suffering from cancer invited us into his apartment, and directed us to his bathroom. Pipes in the ceiling, along with wood are completely exposed, the plaster gone, and the ceiling is leaking and moldy. Saunders says, “That’s what I’ve been living in for 4 months, and it’s water coming in there every single day. It pours into the bath tub, mold everywhere.”

Saunders tells the 19 News Troubleshooters, the new owners, Smartland, who have been in charge for at least 3 months, promised to address the problem. But, after filing maintenance requests in writing and making repeated phone calls he says they’ve repeatedly failed to show up, “This is a working class community and nobody should be treated this way. This is not fair to people. Who lives in this with cancer?”

Fed up, Saunders called Cleveland housing inspectors, and the owners were cited and ordered to fix the problem on July 1st. But, according to Saunders still no response from those who manage the building, “We keep calling and asking for help, and they get worse and then take the trash bins away.”

The dumpster disappeared just before Labor Day according to apartment residents, and along with the unsightly look and smell of garbage piling up, they found a rodent in one building. The community washer hasn’t worked for at least 3 and a half weeks, and the security door into the building is broken.

Resident Laurie Brand says that loss in security is an invitation for thieves. Her storage locker broken into, but even more frightening, she says maintenance workers took her decades old screens and never replaced them, now, her windows are like an open door. Brand says, “I woke up at 3 in the morning and there was a man halfway through my window.”

All the windows are original to the building, and residents say the city has ordered that they all be replaced, because the wood around them is rotting, and black mold has visibly formed in the apartment of Laurie Brand, “This where my sanctuary is supposed to be, this is my home.”

19 News has reached out to Smartland several times by telephone and even showed up to their offices in Highland Heights, to get answers. The manager was unavailable to talk to 19 News, so again, we left a message. Now, residents on Van Aken Boulevard want to send them a message as well, “We’re the people that pay the rent that pay your bills. So, we expect when we pay our rent to you, we get the services that are promised.”

19 News has been looking into the problems at the Van Aken Apartment building for a number of days, and even though the owners have not responded, ironically, since we’ve been looking into the problems dumpsters have now been returned. But it remains to be seen how the other problems will be addressed.

Resident Laurie Brand says she believes the new owners want to make the current residents so unhappy that they will leave, and then the new owners can move forward with plans to renovate the property and increase the rent. Several residents say Smartland is pushing for everyone to be on a month-to-month leases, rather than honoring their current leases and the conditions of those contracts. Smartland has been unavailable to respond.

Since working on this story 19 News returned to the apartment complex and has discovered that the trash dumpsters have now been returned for trash disposal.

The 19 News Troubleshooters plan to follow up on this story to find out what the owners of the building plan to do about the problems.