KANSAS CITY, Mo. — People living at a Kansas City apartment complex have filed a class action lawsuit on Wednesday against its owner.
The lawsuit demands the owners of the Stonegate Meadows Apartments complex make improvements across the property. The Heartland Center for Jobs & Freedom, a nonprofit law office, is assisting with the suit.
Even former residents like Michele Williams are getting involved in the suit.
“My attitude has changed. Like it was to the point that it was messing with our mental health,” the former Stonegate tenant said.
Williams and her family no longer have to deal with plumbing problems, mold or structural damage at Stonegate Meadows Apartments.
“It’s wild out there. It really is like the Wild Wild West,” former tenant Roosevelt Price said.
The family was able to move and no longer worries about living conditions at Stonegate Meadows, but they know that’s not the case for others.
“Enough is enough,” Price said. “It’s been going on for so long that something needs to happen there.”
According to the lawsuit, the complex is infested with roaches and rodents. Apartments leak and some have ceiling collapses and mold issues.
“These issues have been going on for years,” said John Bonacorsi, attorney with the Heartland Center for Jobs & Freedom.
“Stonegate has been aware of these issues for years. Tenants have been consistently complaining. They’ve again contacted the city, they’ve contacted federal officials. They’ve contact whomever they can.”
The Kansas City Health Department confirms it has conducted hundreds of inspections at the apartment complex since December 2019. Those inspections identified nearly 1,000 violations.
The health department also said it previously revoked Stonegate Meadows’ rental license twice.
“They’re already required under state and local law to have decent and sanitary, inhabitable conditions, and that’s what we’re believing they’re failing to do,” Bonacorsi said.
The lawsuit was also filed against former and current property owners. FOX4 called everyone included in the suit; we were either told no comment or didn’t receive a response.
FOX4 has reported on the living conditions at Stonegate Meadows dating back to at least 2016.
Then in April 2022, an overnight fire at the apartment complex sent 15 people to the hospital. Some people were seen jumping from the second floor to escape.
Nearly five months after the fire, FOX4 received numerous complaints from tenants stating the apartment complex had become inhabitable.
Three months after that, FOX4 received additional complaints from tenants regarding broken fire alarms.
“The fire alarms, we don’t even got one in the hallway,” Jones told FOX4 in January. “Like, this whole building don’t got no fire alarms, so especially in case of a fire, you won’t hear it unless you got one inside your apartment.”
Less than 24 hours after FOX4 reported on the broken fire alarms, Kansas City Councilman Brandon Ellington showed up to the property with a fire crew to encourage the leasing office to step it up.
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II sent a letter to the property owner, demanding they address the unsafe living conditions tenants are subjected to.
After the complex refused to comment on the matter to FOX4 for several weeks, it responded to Cleaver’s letter and agreed to construct a compliance plan to address tenant concerns.
FOX4 reached out to the congressman again Wednesday after news of the lawsuit. He released the following statement:
“It is no surprise that legal action has been taken by residents to ensure accountability for unacceptable living conditions at the Stonegate Meadows Apartment complex. Residents are not seeking luxury; they are seeking decent housing for their families. My office, as well as local actors, have attempted to work with the property to ensure improvements are being made and public health and safety standards are met.
“Unfortunately, Stonegate Meadows has a history of accepting taxpayer subsidy, then destroying affordable housing through neglect and displacing families in need. The property has not demonstrated a serious commitment to meeting the standards set by Kansas City and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and I will be visiting the property in the immediate future to assess the full scope of current conditions.”
The Heartland Center for Jobs & Freedom also sent the complex a letter requesting property managers and owners meet with tenants to address a laundry list of issues.
But after months of concerns about property conditions, tenants at Stonegate Meadows Apartments teamed up with the legal group, demanding the overdue action from property owners and managers that has yet to be addressed.
“Two thirds of low-income tenants live in unsafe and unsanitary housing yet no one is enforcing those tenants’ rights,” Gina Chiala, executive director and attorney at Heartland Center said in a press release.
“We aim to change that. It can no longer be the norm that poor people and low-wage workers live in bad housing.”
Recently Kansas City’s Department of Housing and Urban Development stopped its voucher program with Stonegate.
When FOX4 reached out for an update, we were told there are currently 51 families living at Stonegate Meadows.
Of those, 38 families are in units that are in compliance with inspection requirements. Nine families are in units that failed inspection, and the tenants have new HUD vouchers to find another apartment.
For the remaining four, their units also recently failed inspection. The owner has 30 days to remedy the problems, or HUD will stop paying the assistance and then issue new vouchers to these families.
Only one of the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit is an active HUD voucher participant; however, they no longer reside at Stonegate Meadows.