OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Collecting double deposits for apartments, having no intention of ever returning them and failing to pay vendors: these are the guidelines multiple property managers said were routine business practices for the owners of some Kansas City metro apartment complexes.
One of those complexes is the 79 Metcalf Apartment Homes in Overland Park, Kansas.
According to Michael Sullivan of Berkadia, the complex is in the process of being sold. It is listed on the real estate company's website as an active listing.
Beautiful crystal chandeliers, new furniture and a new workout center are all part of the sparkling new clubhouse at 79 Metcalf.
But Danny Brooks and Jesse Choate said those amenities are a stark contrast to the apartments residents actually live in.
They said they were shown a nice apartment when they decided to live there, but it wasn't the one they were actually given.
"Absolutely a bait-and-switch. Yeah, for sure bait-and-switch. They showed us a really nice apartment, we moved into a crap-hole," Brooks said.
Brooks, Choate and later Brooks' fiancee said they lived with bugs, no heat, no air conditioning and other issues.
They stuck it out for their entire year's lease before leaving.
When they recently applied to rent a house, they were told they owed $6,950 to 79 Metcalf.
Brooks confronted the property manager.
"I said '$6,950? What are you talking about?' I said, 'I need proof now,' and she said, 'I don't have to show you anything,'" Brooks said.
The property manager who was working at 79 Metcalf at the time Brooks and Choate lived there wrote an open letter supporting them.
In that letter, the former property manager said Brooks and Choate were good tenants who paid on time.
The manager also wrote in the letter, "I have seen this company time and time again take so much from people who have so little just because they can. It is compiled of the most despicable, dishonest people I have ever met."
Debbie Kendrick worked for 79 Metcalf owners Vijay and Nevin Dewar at various apartment complexes as a property manager until the Dewars fired her.
"They called me a bitch, told me I was fat, lazy, disabled, unfit to the do the job, too old for the job. They told everyone I quit so that they wouldn't have to pay me unemployment and never returned my full check," Kendrick said.
Kendrick alleged the Dewars broke some laws.
Under Missouri law, landlords can charge double deposit. But under Kansas law, landlords can only charge the equivalent of one month's rent as a security deposit for a vacant apartment.
But Kendrick claims the Dewars didn't follow that law.
"Double the deposits and sometimes double the rent," Kendrick said.
"They would take these double deposits — first and last month's rent — which is against the law in the state of Kansas," said Tanya Teegarden, another former property manager.
Teegarden and a former leasing agent named Elsa Abraham have filed separate federal lawsuits against the Dewars' company, Gold Crown Management.
The two women had been representing themselves in court. But after the 41 Action News Investigators story about their cases, court records show attorneys are now representing both women in court.
The 41 Action News Investigators obtained a lease from a former property manager who also used to live at 79 Metcalf.
The lease does show a double deposit, with one of the charges listed as a non-refundable administration fee.
"We never returned security deposits. If you did, you were fired or it was taken out of your check," Kendrick said.
Teegarden alleged the Dewars targeted African Americans and foreigners for double deposits as well as a requirement to pay the first and last month's rent.
In some cases, Teegarden claimed African Americans and foreigners would have to pay the entire lease up front.
Jessica Clark worked at the Dewars' Prospect Studios complex in Gladstone, Missouri, this past April before leaving after just one month on job.
"Vijay always wanted to see photo IDs with tenant applications. He never wanted to rent to black people," Clark said. "If the applicant was black, he or she would be denied."
"They wanted all white people, especially in Gladstone. No foreigners or blacks were allowed in Gladstone. They would send them to 79 Metcalf or the complex on Mission in KCK," Teegarden said. "If they were real bad they'd send them to the complex in Olathe, which the Dewars sold. The Dewars would refer to blacks as Canadians. So there was a lot of tenant-landlord laws being broken daily on residents, including fair housing laws."
According to a pending lawsuit in Wyandotte County court, Brandon Mills was walking his dog last August at the Mission Studios apartment complex when he stepped onto the lid of an unsecured water meter pit.
Court records claim Mills fell into the pit, badly injuring his foot.
Mills' attorney Joshua Scott said the Dewars refused to cover Mills' injury with the complex insurance.
And Scott said after he filed a lawsuit on Mills' behalf for $75,000, Mills received notice from the complex his lease would not be renewed and he would have to vacate his apartment by the end of May.
As for the Dewars' business practices concerning contractors who did work for them, Kendrick said they would hire small business owners off Craigslist.
"As soon as they messed up once, they kick them out off the property and never pay them. And I saw that so many times," Kendrick said.
"I've seen people work there and do a lot of work that never got paid," Teegarden said.
Tyler Kosman said he's one of the lucky ones.
After being hired from a Craigslist advertisement and doing some painting at 79 Metcalf, he said he had to push to get paid.
Kosman said he did ultimately get paid, but also quickly realized it wasn't a place he wanted to do business.
"They want us to paint over the mold instead of cutting it out. We don't do that kind of work and I refuse to put our name on something like that," Kosman said. "Every day there was a new person leaving because they were getting jacked around on the money."
Kosman claims he also saw Vijay and Nevin Dewar getting in a loud verbal fight in the 79 Metcalf parking lot with each other, even calling the police on each other.
Jeff Bailey said he hasn't been as lucky as Kosman.
Bailey said he's been doing work at the Dewars' Prospect Studios complex in Gladstone and sent pictures of disrepair at that complex.
"Yeah and when we try to fix it and work 41 and a half hours, they try to pay us for 20 hours and make us sign an NDA," Bailey said, referring to a non-disclosure agreement. "After calling me white trash and making false accusations, I'm now out $705 I've already worked for. That's rent for me. Sad thing is I don't even have gas money to make it to interviews that are already lined up."
Brooks and Choate have not been able to find a new place to live because of the problem they've had clearing their names with 79 Metcalf, even though they haven't lived there since February 2018.
"It was my first time living outside of my parents' house. So the one bit of renter's history I have is now completely ruined. It's just an absolute nightmare," Choate said. "It's now May 2019. You think if there were any legitimate claim to a debt of that value, we'd be getting phone calls, letters in the mail, possibly even a court date in the mail."
"If that's not the definition of a crook, then I don't know what's the definition of a crook," Brooks said.
After sending a registered letter to 79 Metcalf demanding documentation of the charges the complex claims Brooks and Choate owe, a complex representative called Brooks offering a deal.
That deal was to not charge Brooks and Choate $6,950 and only keep the security deposit.
However, the deal was conditional on Brooks not speaking to the 41 Action News Investigators.
The 41 Action News Investigators have made multiple attempts to speak to the Dewars.
Only their attorney, Stephen Mirakian, responded.
In an April 24, 2019, letter, Mirakian wrote the following:
"The fact that some disgruntled former employees or contractors, for their self-serving and, as in the case of Ms. Teegarden and Ms. Abraham, efforts to unduly extort or coerce my client to pay money to which they are not entitled, making largely unsubstantiated reports of inadequate maintenance or unfair treatment of tenants should not be the basis for publication of a news story that, if it contains the inaccurate, incomplete or misleading allegations you have been given, could cause substantial financial harm to my client."