Apartment tenants voice safety concerns

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

A dispute between residents and management at a local senior apartment complex has gotten the attention of McDonough officials and what some are calling retaliation by management against a resident.

Residents at the Heritage Apartments on Bridges Road have met recently to discuss concerns they are having with a variety of issues including safety. At the most recent meeting last Thursday in an outdoor area at the complex, according to residents, maintenance personnel arrived and ordered the residents to leave, although they refused.

One of the primary organizers behind that meeting, Priscilla Sutton-Shakir, said she and her husband were issued an eviction notice because she assisted in getting the word out about the gathering. She said one of the reasons listed for the eviction was “distribution of notices to residents without using the U.S. Postal Service.” The meeting notice was posted on the bulletin board in the clubhouse, which has always been the appropriate spot for such information, she said, and she and her husband have always paid their rent on time and had no previous issues with management. The couple has retained legal counsel to deal with the matter.

Gail Hicklin said that officials in the apartment complex have tried to shut down three meetings convened by residents. One recent action at the complex has been deemed illegal by a McDonough official.

Management recently announced that the clubhouse, in which the mailboxes for the residents are located, would only be open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. McDonough City Council member Sandra Vincent, in whose district the complex is located, came to a recent gathering to assist the residents and cited a federal statute that prohibits management from restricting access to their mailboxes. Some recent resident meetings had been held in the clubhouse, at which a sign was posted stating it was closed until further notice.

One of the primary concerns from residents was safety gates at the complex which were unlocked and wide open for nearly a year before finally being repaired recently. Two pedestrian gates were kept locked so that residents without their own automobiles could not exit the property, Hicklin said.

After being informed by the city’s police chief and fire marshal that these were code violations and given 24 hours to fix them, action was taken by management to do so. But a gate swung open the first night, and a subsequent latch installed there can be unhooked from the outside by simply reaching over, Hicklin said. The other gate still cannot be used in case of a fire or other emergency as of last Friday, she added. There are more than 100 units in the complex.

At the most recent resident meeting, it was reported that Vincent had forwarded all of the relevant concerns to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and Heritage officials were given 10 days to comply. Some have been addressed while others have not, according to Hicklin.

Some areas have problems with mold, according to residents, and laundry service has been an ongoing problem. Residents said they were told upon moving in that they could not have their personal washers and dryers in their apartments but would have to rent such appliances from management for $45 per month. The central laundry facility had been out of operation for a few years until recently, although management claimed it had only been a few weeks, Hicklin said. Laundry service there costs $5 per load and residents must log in at the front office so the leasing manager can let them into the laundromat and then lock them in until they are finished, she added.

Heritage is a 55-over community with a number of residents around 90 years of age, Hicklin said.