OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Flooding, black mold and cockroaches are some of the problems city inspectors have found at an Overland Park, Kansas apartment complex over the last several years.
An attorney for the complex owners says the issues have been resolved, including a recent one.
But a couple of former tenants say they moved out because conditions were intolerable.
Sidney McLaughlin is one of those tenants who's now closing the door on a chapter in her life she'd like to forget.
Earlier this year, McLaughlin, her boyfriend and their infant daughter were excited to move into their first home together.
They chose the 79 Metcalf Apartments, right in the heart of downtown Overland Park.
"We didn't even get in for a month," McLaughlin said. "We gave them money, they said it would be a week."
She says the issues continued in the heat of summer when she says the air conditioning didn't work because the unit would freeze.
McLaughlin says a complex maintenance worker told her to turn the unit on and off to restart it which she believes led to a more than $400 power bill in the small two-bedroom apartment.
She also says a lack of hot water, coupled with the air conditioning problems, led her and her family to stay elsewhere.
When the 41 Action News Investigators asked McLaughlin if she would've moved into the apartment knowing what she knows now, she was quick with the answer.
"No I would've never moved in here," she said. "I don't want to deal with problems, I just want to live happily."
A woman named Levi, who didn't want to be further identified because of where she works, gave 41 Action News photos from 2014 showing how her apartment next to the laundry room flooded twice and filled with mold.
Levi says two months after moving into her apartment, it flooded the first time and there were three inches of water for about three days.
She says she went to the manager to tell them there was also mold growing on the ground.
"They never came and fixed it and I ended up fixing it myself," Levi said. "I rented a shampoo machine and I had to rent an air purifier. I had to buy a dehumidifier. I had a child who was five at the time and so I couldn't live in a place that had mold."
She says management wouldn't honor her receipts of thousands of dollars out of her own pocket and she continued to pay rent.
Then a couple of months later, the apartment flooded again.
Levi says firefighters had to break down a nailed-shut door in the laundry room near her apartment. Once inside, they discovered a broken water pipe and shut off the water.
Levi says she gave management 30 days to fix her apartment or she would move.
She says management threatened to sue and threatened to call the police when she complained.
Levi moved out and the complex never sued.
"I would never recommend that place to anyone, not even my worst enemy," she said.
Overland Park city managers are well aware of issues at the apartment complex.
They sent the 41 Action News Investigators 30 pages of inspection reports covering roughly the last five years.
City inspectors can only come to an apartment if they're invited by a tenant because of a complaint.
Tenant complaints in the inspection reports include flooding, electrical problems, mold, cockroaches and heating and cooling issues.
Recently, city inspectors told the 41 Action News Investigators about an ongoing flooding and mold issue in a vacant apartment dating back to April.
The 41 Action News Investigators told the complex owners' attorney Steve Mirakian about the problem on Friday.
On Monday, the complex obtained the necessary permit to fix the issue.
The complex passed a follow up inspection Wednesday.
Mirakian and the complex owners declined a request for on camera comment.
However Mirakian did send an email with a statement about the complex.
"The complex was built in 1983 and is now approximately 35 years old. There are 281 units at the property. Since purchasing the property, my client has worked very hard and invested a substantial sum of money to maintain the property in an aesthetically pleasing manner and so as to meet the legitimate needs of tenants and the City of Overland Park. This is why 79 Metcalf has a 4-star rating.
In the past few years alone, my client has invested over $3 million dollars in capital improvements and repairs, including:
- Installing a beautiful swimming pool and pool lounge area adjacent to the office; and
- Completely renovating and rebuilding the clubhouse, a gym, and a recreation area for tenants; and
- Installing LED lighting on the exterior of each building; and
- Re-painting virtually the entire complex; and
- Re-surfacing and resealing the entire parking lot; and
- Installing substantial landscaping throughout the complex to increase the aesthetic quality for tenants;
- Installing a very attractive entry gate at the south entrance to enhance both the esthetic quality and the security of the premises;
- Successfully engaging in litigation to obtain reasonably appropriate compensation for interior and exterior damage to the premises either resulting from significant weather events and/or to repair damage resulting from unreasonably poor workmanship by contractors or subcontractors causing damage to the premises."
City records show the complex was cited by inspectors in 2014 for failing to have the proper lighting in common hallways, storage areas and the laundry.
The issue has been resolved since that time.
The 41 Action News Investigators asked Overland Park Community Services Director Jerry Anderson, who oversees inspections, if other apartment complexes in the city have as many problems as this one.
"We have more violations at this apartment complex at 79th and Metcalf than at other places, yes," Anderson said.
If after getting a violation notice, a landlord fails to fix the issues in a timely fashion, the city can take the landlord to municipal court and seek a fine.
Anderson says it's been done in the past with the 79 Metcalf complex.
"We issued Notices to Appear in municipal court in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Most of the notices were for exterior violations. One notice appears to be for an interior violation. Another notice is for water quality on the pool," Anderson noted.
"They're not the easiest to work with, but the majority of our cases we were able to resolve and get compliance out of them," Anderson said.
While the complex currently has no unresolved issues with the city of Overland Park, there are unresolved complaints with the Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City.
Bureau spokesman Aaron Reese says management has failed to answer six of the seven complaints against the complex, including four this year.
As a result, the BBB gives the complex an "F," its lowest rating.
Additionally, the complex and its owners have been involved in numerous lawsuits, including as defendants.
Two people, Kodi Maduka and Alexander Land, took the complex owners Park LLC to small claims court last year when they said managers failed to have their apartment ready on time but refused to return the security deposit and first month's rent.
Court records show Maduka and Alexander won their $885 judgment when the complex failed to show up in court.
Another tenant, Debra Ivie, sued Park LLC and its owners in 2016 after she slipped, fell and injured herself on an icy wooded stairway.
The case was settled without a trial.
Multiple vendors have also sued the company including Artistic Designs Lawn and Landscape, Inc. with a mechanics lien in 2010 for $101,266.
The owners' former attorney David Herron also sued them in 2014, claiming the owners breached a deal to provide an apartment at the complex in exchange for legal services.
Herron claims in court documents that while the dispute was ongoing, owner Nevin Dewar used profanity, ethnic slurs and homophobic taunts to describe Herron in front of his 11 year-old daughter.
It includes the claim Dewar said Herron "is untrustworthy because of his Jewish bloodline."
The case was settled without a trial.
In response to the lawsuits involving Park LLC and its owners, Mirakian wrote,
"All of the matters involve relatively small claims as the court information shows, and all the matters were resolved either by settlement that was mutually acceptable to the claimant and my client, or by trial judgment in favor of my client, or by voluntary dismissal by the claimant. Any suggestion that the fact that my client has been the subject to multiple proven or even provable claims by vendors, contractors, or tenants would support a reasonable inference that my client has regularly engaged in wrongful conduct or has been held liable or accountable in these matters would be false or, at best, grossly misleading."
The state of Kansas also issued a tax warrant last year against Park LLC and owners Nevin and Vijay Dewar for $1,203.13 in unpaid withholding tax.
"The tax matter was my client’s tax protest that was amicably resolved," Mirakian replied.
After the 41 Action News Investigators told Mirakian last week the complex had not paid its Overland Park rental license fee of $1,320 which was due in February, the complex paid the fee and obtained its license on Friday.
Sidney McLaughlin and her family have moved out of the 79 Metcalf complex.
She says when she complained about repairs, management posted an eviction notice on her door, even though her rent was paid.
She plans to sue the complex in small claims court to get her deposit and last month's rent returned.
"I would really just like to start somewhere else. I don't want to live here," she said. "I feel like they don't deserve my money and I don't feel like we deserve this neglect."