I-TEAM UPDATE: Forgotten tenants fight back

By  | 

Monday, January 21, 2019
News 12 at 6/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Tenants at Georgian Place Apartments have called code enforcement enough times to have 30 open cases opened in 2018. Yolanda Murphey called after seeing her newly leased apartment for the first time.

"That crack right there - that was the crack, but this thing has come in," Yolanda showed News 12 around her apartment, where an inspector found all kinds of violations including improper wiring, a broken sink, and rodent feces.

Murphey was so disgusted that she took her problem to Augusta commissioners.

"For Georgian Place to be operating in such condition and they have so many code violations, why are they still standing?"

Commissioners wanted an answer too, so they asked code enforcement to investigate. Our I-Team learned Murphy was not the 32nd tenant at Georgian Place to complain to code enforcement last year.

News 12 found 18 of the 32 cases were still open in December. Code enforcement told commissioners they've since closed seven, which means the owners completed repairs in those seven cases.

"It's just heartbreaking and this is a problem."

Commissioners are aware of the problem too. Code enforcement officers can force landlords to make repairs. For starters, they can give them a ticket. City code allows inspectors to write them, but that didn’t happen even once in the 32 cases we found.

"Once these are reconciled, where are we going from here?"

Code enforcement promised commissioners a plan is in place. A few months ago, new owners bought Georgian Place. Inspectors are now working with them to fix everything and we're holding them to it. We've already seen crews out there.

"After they finish up the 11 violations they have now, we will issue them a regular business license. We will make sure we will meet with Ms. Archie once a month to go over what cases we have open."

If they don't fix it all in four months -- they won't get a business license. But for some – it’s too little too late.

The new owners are operating under a provisional business license. They have four months to make all of the repairs before it expires.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019
New 12 at 6/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- After an I-Team Investigation inspectors investigated the apartments at Georgian Place and found one building did have mold.

That apartment has since been boarded up.

They are still looking at apartments that they received complaints about, 7 other apartments have already been fixed.

In addition to complaints, inspectors are looking at 70 apartments. So far, 31 vacant units have been inspected.

They will give the owner a list of problems that need to be fixed in 30 days.

Monday, January 7, 2019
News 12 @ 6 O'clock / NBC 26 at 7

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - An apartment complex plagued with a history of crime and code violations is now under scrutiny. Commissioners asked Code Enforcement to investigate Georgian Place Apartments last month. Inspectors will present their findings to commissioners Tuesday. There are more than fifty complaints on record with Code Enforcement over the last two years. Our I-Team found more than half of the complaints are still listed as open.

Yvonne Murphy has been staying in a hotel for over a week. She never pictured herself staying this long but she also didn't picture the apartment she rented online would look so different in person. She wanted to walk right back out as soon as she first stepped in her Georgian Place apartment. "It was like a dump site," she said.

Code Enforcement found more than ten violations including improper wiring, rust on the water heater, broken sink and lots of rodent feces. Murphy refused to pay rent until maintenance made the repairs but she got an eviction notice. Tenants still have to pay rent regardless of the condition of a rental under state law.

In December, Murphy took her concerns to commissioners. "For Georgian Place to be operating in such condition and they have so many code violations... why are they still standing?"' Commissioners asked Rob Sherman with Planning Development how many complaints were on file with Georgian Place. "Over the years, we periodically have them over there," Rob Sherman told them. Our I-Team requested all of the Georgian Place records on file with Code Enforcement. There were thirty-two complaints last year and twenty-three the year in 2017. Code Enforcement records show more than half of the complaints are still open so we do not know if the repairs were ever made.

Deputy Kurt Watts drove Liz Owens through Georgian Place two years ago. "They get broken into the homeless sleep inside," Deputy Watts said. The Sheriff's Office received more than 1300 calls from the complex that year.

"You either settle and you pay or you wind up on the street pushing a cart. And that's what I am seeing a lot of," Murphy said. She can't afford to settle. "I have cancer and environmental- brochettes and asthma so I am very concerned about my environment."

Ownership changed at Georgian Place about two months ago. The property manager told our I-Team the new owners had no idea about the existing code violations. She said she is working with the county to make the repairs. Code Enforcement will give commissioners an update on the progress of the repairs on Tuesday.