Owner of Prairie Village apartment complex raising rents, refusing questions

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PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — Residents in Prairie Village are feeling forced out, and the company responsible refuses to answer questions.

On Friday, FOX4 reported about Kenilworth Apartments in Prairie Village. A Denver-based company, Avanti Residential, took over the complex in June. Residents got letters telling them to pay more or go, and the city of Prairie Village said there’s not much it can do.

On Monday, people trying to reach Kenilworth Apartments or Avanti Residential’s headquarters had a tough time. Neither of its phones were working all day. Residents say it’s not only the phones, they’re not being heard and it feels like management doesn’t care.

While driving through the property, moving vans are becoming part of the scenery. For many, it’s been their home, but now, it’s anything but.

Cindy Terrell signed a new lease at Kenilworth before the trouble started.

“Some of my neighbors, I’m so worried about them,” Terrell said.

People started getting notices their leases were canceled, renovations to the complex were coming and they needed to move out. If they wanted to come back, their rent would skyrocket.

“A 43% increase is not going to be feasible. I’m not going to be able to do it,” Terrell said.

Prairie Village is quaint, but for many, it’s becoming too pricey.

Jamie Robichaud, deputy city administrator for Prairie Village, said both houses and apartments in Prairie Village are aged. Many homes have been torn down for re-builds, and apartments are being renovated.

“We’re seeing a lot of our aging apartment complexes are being renovated, and the rental prices are increasing. Some residents have been displaced in the process and so they have to find other housing options within the city,” Robichaud said.

However, some aren’t finding it and are having to move outside Prairie Village. Some find the moving costs themselves difficult to handle.

A recent Johnson County housing study found Fairway, Prairie Village, Roeland Park, and Shawnee had the highest increases in rent. The city has a housing committee reviewing the study and plans to present solutions in the spring to the Prairie Village City Council, but for some it could be too late.

“I don’t think it’s a problem that’s been solved anywhere, and it’s going to be a challenge that we continue to face, and we have to continue to work towards innovative solutions too,” Robichaud said.

At Kenilworth, the majority of residents are considered older. While some physically and financially have the ability to leave, Terrell said others don’t, whether it’s lack of family in the area, physical ability, finances, or all three. They feel Avanti Residential is putting people last.

Rick Caplan said he moved out of the complex before they decided to cancel residents leases and raise their rent. He was paying $928 for his two bedroom and one bath unit which included water and internet. He was told once the unit was renovated they planned to put it on the market for $1,400 per month.

Caplan said when he went to the office to get his security deposit back he voiced his concerns about the cancellation of leases and rent increases.

The hardship this places on people is overwhelming. Although what Avanti is doing, I assume, is legal, their process is proving to be devastating to the Kenilworth community. Many of the residents, especially elder citizens look upon Kenilworth to provide a sense of community and interpersonal connections. When residents are sick, others go to the grocery for them. It is a safe and easy community to socialize in. I asked [the employee} if the ownership could take a step back and consider this. She told me the sense of community I speak of is not her concern, that this is happening all over, and her concern is servicing the investors.

Rick Caplan, former Kenilworth Resident

“I have neighbors that are in their 80s and 90s and they have no idea how they’re going to be able to move everything out of their apartments and move to another location. It’s scary for them. My neighbor is crying – ‘Cindy, what am I supposed to do?’ I say, we’re just going to have to get through it,” Terrell said.

In previous reports FOX4 reached out to several people in Avanti Residential through phone and email, and did again Monday. We reached out to the company directly, but also its public relations firm in California as well. FOX4 spoke with one representative who said they would get back to us ahead of this story being published, but never did.

FOX4 will continue looking into this and hope to have an update soon.

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