‘Inhumane’ conditions at southwest Atlanta apartments show difficulties facing some renters

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Repairs have begun on southwest Atlanta apartment buildings that, according to residents, have been infested with rats, water leaks and mold.

Residents at a southwest Atlanta apartment complex cited last summer for 185 code enforcement violations, including extreme mold and rodents, said they feel overlooked by the city.

Promised repairs and clean up at Royal Oaks Apartments haven’t been done and city officials have handed out only a modest fine to the complex’s property managers.

“They really let us down,” resident Angela McCoy said last week, about the code enforcement unit of the Atlanta Police Department. “I sent photos. I showed them nothing else was done.”

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McCoy said mold continues to run throughout her apartment. Workers repaired a ceiling where water was pouring through last summer but only painted over mold in other areas, she said.

Issues at Royal Oaks highlight the difficulties residents can face when trying to get help when their apartments fall into disrepair. In even more extreme circumstances a west side complex managed by the same company as Royal Oaks was condemned. Meridian Management Group was cited with 400 violations at Sierra Ridge Apartments and the judge ruled that property was unfit to live in.

Royal Oaks Residents Shanika Wright and Janie Penny said last week that in addition to mold, holes in walls or under their sinks that have still not been repaired continue to provide access to rats that have run through their apartments.

The Atlanta Solicitor’s Office case against Royal Oaks Apartments was closed Oct. 4, according to the city’s website, and included a fine of $703 for unhealthy conditions created by garbage on the property. The apartment community’s representatives pleaded no contest to violations related to a commercial dumpster that wasn’t enclosed. But some residents said they received only partial repairs to apartment units and they’re being forced to move out.

Royal Oaks, located on a dead end at 3540 North Camp Creek Parkway, was cited with the multiple violations in July after residents complained of falling structures, rodents and neglect by management. Wright said she alerted code enforcement.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported residents’ concerns were ignored by apartment management and the tenants said living conditions were inhumane.

Last summer, Solicitor Erika Smith, whose office handles code enforcement cases for Atlanta police, said Prosperity Capital Partners, owner of the complex, would have time to bring the apartments into compliance but if they didn’t fix the problems cited, a judge could declare the property a nuisance.

The solicitor’s office did not return several phone calls to the AJC about the closed case, and city code enforcement doesn’t usually remain active in cases after they are forwarded to the solicitor’s office.

Royal Oaks was built in 1972. The community has over 200 apartments and sits on about 16 acres. The complex’s residents, who are mostly Black, said they pay from $500 to over $900 a month in rent.

The AJC first visited Royal Oaks in July to see the living conditions. We found mold spread throughout apartment units, holes in ceilings, soaked carpets from water dripping off ceilings and broken air conditioning units.

Labarron Perkins, who was sitting in his car in the parking lot that day, said his air conditioner had been broken for weeks and he often sat in his car to cool off.

Meridian Management Group, which manages the property, began making $3.2 million in repairs in August, managing partner Mike Furr said at the time. But McCoy, Wright and Penny say the work is incomplete in their units, while empty apartments are being remodeled.

“They tried to do a little of the repairs but they don’t amount to all of the things that need to be done,” Wright said Friday. “We still have holes in the wall and mold issues.”

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Units at Royal Oaks Apartments in southwest Atlanta have fallen into disrepair, with mold throughout units, holes in walls and leaking ceilings. The complex was cited by Atlanta's code enforcement unit with 185 violations last summer. Adrianne Murchison/AJC)

Units at Royal Oaks Apartments in southwest Atlanta have fallen into disrepair, with mold throughout units, holes in walls and leaking ceilings. The complex was cited by Atlanta's code enforcement unit with 185 violations last summer. Adrianne Murchison/AJC)

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Units at Royal Oaks Apartments in southwest Atlanta have fallen into disrepair, with mold throughout units, holes in walls and leaking ceilings. The complex was cited by Atlanta's code enforcement unit with 185 violations last summer. Adrianne Murchison/AJC)

Penny said her refrigerator hasn’t worked for months and she’s seen three rats run in her apartment.

The women said they were each preparing to move out of their units by this week due to unsafe living conditions, and separately they are at risk of being evicted for back rent. The three said that when Royal Oaks was purchased in March and the new management company took over, they could no longer pay rent through an online portal or pay through the rental office which didn’t allow visitors to enter. Penny launched a GoFundMe campaign to help Royal Oaks residents with housing expenses, but the fundraising didn’t result in much help.

The AJC wasn’t allowed to enter the leasing office or speak to anyone inside when visiting on two separate occasions. And the leasing office phone number continues to be inoperable.

Florida-based Prosperity Capital bought the Atlanta complex in March for $13.8 million, according to a copy of a transaction document. An online video before the purchase shows Prosperity co-founder Randy Lawrence pitching the property to potential investors. Images of the community in the video appear newer or in better condition than the apartments do today and Lawrence presented the property as the “investment of the decade … Just a plain quality affordable housing type thing for a regular working American.”

In the video, Lawrence said Royal Oaks and other older apartment communities built in the 1970s and 1980s and located near the airport are in demand and convenient for workers earning up to $65,000 per year. He said Prosperity Capital also owns other complexes including Chastain Woods, Greenbriar Mill in Atlanta and Salem Chase in Conyers.

Phone messages to Lawrence and Furr were not returned to the AJC.