KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Kansas City councilman and fire crews are digging into problems at an apartment complex where residents have been complaining of poor living conditions for months.
FOX4 Problem Solvers decided to visit Stonegate Meadows Apartments in Kansas City after we heard from at least five tenants concerned for their safety following a fire that left 15 people hospitalized in April.
What we found was a laundry list of maintenance issues, including broken and beeping fire alarms, water leaking through ceilings, heating and air conditioning concerns, water complications and security problems.
“Y’all say you want us to pay rent every month on time, but our maintenance stuff needs to be up to par,” tenant Sedric Jones previously told FOX4.
Problem Solvers called Stonegate Meadows’ leasing office and operations manager at least three times to inquire about maintenance issues but never received a call back.
When the property managers refused to talk, we contacted Kansas City Councilman Brandon Ellington, who visited Stonegate Meadows on Thursday to encourage the leasing office to step up.
But he didn’t come alone. Ellington brought the fire department along to inspect common areas of the building.
“There’s a lot of HUD recipients here, so when you talk about the maintenance issues or the lack thereof maintenance, or the lack thereof moving trash, when you talk about safety issues, fire detectors, and all that good stuff, these are mandatory,” Ellington said. “They’re not even questionable.”
Tom Kievlan, assistant fire marshal for the Kansas City Fire Department, said if firefighters hear a smoke detector beeping in the hallways, property managers are given a 30-day notice to correct the issue.
When it comes to smoke detectors in occupants’ units, residents are responsible for maintaining their own fire alarms.
“When these buildings were built back in the early ’70s and all that, the fire code at that time did not require smoke detectors in the common areas. It only required them in the apartment unit, themselves, near a sleeping area,” he said.
“But if previous property management has put in a smoke detector in the hallway, if it’s there while we do the inspection, then it has to be maintained.”
Ellington said he believes several tenants at Stonegate Meadows are being taken for granted and need to understand their rights.
“So, let’s say I’m a HUD tenant or I’m on Section 8,” he said. “I don’t have to beg my landlord to fix my piping or to make sure my windows are caulked or to make sure my furnace works. No, I actually need to just go ahead and pull that trigger on them, and there’s federal laws, federal guidelines, numbers to call.”
Ellington said tenants that feel their rights are being violated can call his office at (816) 513-6511, and he will assist in putting them in contact with the appropriate regulatory body.
“So even if we’re talking about a public water main break in relation to a lack thereof property maintenance — example, you have ceiling tiles falling in, you have corroded piping inside of these facilities — that’s not on the tenant,” he said. “That’s actually on the property company.”
Last spring, Kansas City’s health department told FOX4 it received dozens of complaints on Stonegate Meadows, many about wastewater, mold and pests.
Recently, Stonegate Meadows had 14 outstanding violations, 10 of which came in since the New Year and are water-related.
The health department said the manager has been responsive and the company’s regional maintenance manager was in town Thursday to make sure units were fixed. We’re told most units have had their water restored.
Ellington said property management companies often get away with the lack of care by switching management teams.
“Now, once they switch companies, then that gives that leeway and that lack thereof enforcement when it comes to Healthy Homes, etc., because their case will be with ‘plaintiff A’ and then once it gets cycled over, you have to put a new complaint in and it goes through the whole process,” he said.
FOX4 also reached out to Congressman Emanuel Cleaver about Stonegate Meadows. He said he is aware of the high number of complaints and said, in part, “No one deserves to live under the conditions that have been reported.”
Ellington said on First Fridays, the No More Excuses Coalition meets at Soiree in the Crossroads to explain the law, something he believes tenants at Stonegate Meadows can use.
To learn more about tenant rights for Kansas City, Missouri, residents, check out the city’s website and the Tenant Bill of Rights.