Government inspection of Fairmont Terrace apartments overdue
BY ZIVA BRANSTETTER World Enterprise Editor, CARY ASPINWALL & CURTIS KILLMAN World Staff Writer
Sunday, January 20, 2013
1/20/13 at 7:22 AM
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Related Story: Residents of Fairmont Terrace apartments say they feel safe, enjoy family atmosphere
A south Tulsa apartment complex where four women were gunned down was last inspected by the federal government in 2009 and was more than a year overdue for an inspection, records show.
Since then, some residents at Fairmont Terrace filed complaints with the Tulsa City-County Health Department, reporting concerns about mold that sickened residents, plumbing problems, inoperable air conditioning and other issues.
Meanwhile, a website operated by the property's California-based owners describes Fairmont Terrace as "affordable living at its best," complete with "a sparkling swimming pool" and "3 separate Jamboree play areas for the kids." The site also boasts of Fairmont Terrace's location being "close to many shopping and recreational areas."
Several residents told the Tulsa World they enjoy living at Fairmont Terrace and feel safe there.
"It's really one big family," said Jeanette Winston, 50. "I've been here almost 15 years, and I plan to be here."
Angela McGinnis, Fairmont Terrace's property manager, said she believes the complex has been "unfairly judged" by many in the public. McGinnis said the complex has increased security measures, including installing a new security camera system last week.
Records show that Fairmont Terrace, 1111 E. 60th St., is one of about 30 "project-based" properties in Tulsa that participate in the federal Section 8 housing subsidy program. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development contracts with the property owners - two California-based LLCs - to provide subsidized housing for residents who meet income guidelines.
HUD is required to inspect the properties at least once every three years and inspects them more frequently depending on inspection scores. Records show Fairmont Terrace was last inspected by HUD on Sept. 2, 2009, and should have been inspected per HUD's rules two years later.
The complex is scheduled for its next inspection Tuesday, Patricia Campbell, a spokeswoman in HUD's Southwest Regional Office in Fort Worth, said in an email to the Tulsa World.
"We in HUD are committed to working with the community - the apartment owners, the city government, law enforcement, the residents, THA and the community-at-large - to assure that families who receive housing assistance live in a safe environment. It's their right," Campbell's email states.
HUD gave the property a score of 86 out of 100 - 100 being the best possible score - during its 2009 inspection and cited it for a "life-threatening" deficiency, records show. Additional details of the inspection are not available on HUD's website.
The score was an improvement over the scores of 76 and 85 the complex received in two 2007 inspections, records show. It was also cited for a life-threatening deficiency during the 2007 inspection, which notes a nonfunctioning smoke detector, records show.
Two residents suffered minor injuries after a fire burned a building at the complex in August, destroying 12 apartments. The partially burned building remained standing last week.
Based on HUD's rules, Fairmont Terrace was due for inspection in August 2011, but "funding limitations" delayed the inspection, Campbell said.
It's unlikely an inspection done on HUD's schedule would have had any impact in the deaths of the four women Jan 7. There is no HUD requirement for security cameras or guards at such properties. Owners must develop policies to screen for people involved in criminal activity.
"Property owners are required to ensure that the project is maintained in decent, safe and sanitary condition," Campbell's email states.
After the killings at Fairmont Terrace, Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett and other city officials called for new requirements to improve security in apartment properties.
Seventeen people have been killed in the past two years at apartment complexes in the area surrounding 61st Street and Peoria Avenue. Eight of those deaths occurred at Fairmont Terrace, records show.
No arrests have been made in the deaths of Misty Nunley, 33; Julie Jackson, 55; Rebeika Powell, 23; and Kayetie Powell Melchor, 23. The women were found shot to death in an apartment.
McGinnis said the complex performs thorough background checks on all prospective tenants and has a list of 3,000 people who are banned from the property. The complex is surrounded by a fence, and gates control access.
Security guards - who previously worked only nights but are now on 24-hour duty - request identification from all who enter, McGinnis said.
"Everything that has happened here has happened inside somebody's unit," she said. "We can't be in every unit. ... I have a wonderful security team. We have great residents here, but nobody wants to focus on that at all."
'A lot of complaints'
Although inspectors representing HUD have not visited Fairmont Terrace since 2009, records show that 26 complaints have been filed since then by residents with the Tulsa City-County Health Department about conditions there.
"Maggots in tub, hallway etc.," states one Health Department complaint report. "Mgr (manager) said wait until Friday and that there might be a dead cat in the wall as well."
Another complaint states: "Apartment has flooded 3 times in 5 yrs. Management has only had carpet people pull water out of carpet, but they have never changed the pad."
One resident said she had become sickened by mold due to water leaks: "Apartment has flooded several times, there's always water running behind pipes in bedroom closet creating a terrible mold problem that's making her ill."
Several refer to problems they say complex management refused to fix.
"A/C doesn't work, mgmt will not fix," one states.
"Bed Bugs & No Water Problems. Mgmt will not help," another says.
In many cases, complex management told inspectors the problems would be addressed, records show. In a few cases, the Health Department issued work orders to ensure that repairs were made.
"Mgmt. states that on a work order dated 8/15 that maintenance went out Fed-ex but leak still exists. Mgr. stated that it will be done in order of receipt and that there are a lot of complaints," one report about water leaks states.
McGinnis said Fairmont Terrace acts quickly on maintenance issues, and several residents interviewed by the World agreed.
"My maintenance team won the TAA (Tulsa Apartment Association) maintenance team of the year award last year for their maintenance work because they do stay on top of it," she said.
Property records show that Fairmont Terrace is owned by two California limited liability corporations: DK Ukiah Properties and 1574 Pacific LLC. Both were registered as companies in Oklahoma in 2005, shortly before purchasing the property.
Constance Reynolds of Alameda, Calif., is listed as the sole member and manager of 1574 Pacific LLC, while Doug Solis of Ukiah, Calif., is listed as managing member of DK Ukiah Properties LLC.
A website for a Ukiah-based company named SolRey Properties states that Reynolds started the company in 1996 as a family partnership.
"She was soon joined by her husband, Jerry Reynolds, and brother and sister-in-law, Doug and Kimberly Solis," it states.
The company lists Fairmont Terrace as the largest of its 12 properties in four states: Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee and California.
The company "is particularly interested in older and/or distressed properties, under-managed properties in need of repositioning, and properties performing poorly because of soft market conditions," the company's website states.
The property is managed by Lynco Inc., a Tulsa company, according to the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency.
"SolRey Properties believes in the Tulsa Multi-Family market and with their latest acquisition, is poised to take advantage of an economy that is on the upswing," the website states.
Several calls to a phone number listed for the owners were not returned.
Four in 10 HUD inspections turn up serious issues
Among Tulsa properties currently in the Section 8 program and inspected by HUD, federal inspectors have found at least one life-threatening health and safety deficiency in 42 percent of the 105 inspections conducted by the agency since 2001.
Nearly 47 percent of the inspections revealed only nonlife-threatening health and safety deficiencies. About 11 percent of the inspections found no health and safety deficiencies.
Four of the properties inspected by HUD are located in the 61st Street and Peoria Avenue area.
Citywide, Tulsa properties have a median inspection score of 87, slightly better than the Oklahoma median score of 86 and yet slightly worse than the nationwide median score of 88.
In 2009, one Tulsa property, Mayfair Nursing Home, received the worst score in the state among Section 8-inspected properties for the year.
Mayfair Nursing Home received a score of 31 out of 100 during a 2009 inspection. Since then it has received scores of 74 in 2010 and 83 in 2011.
- CURTIS KILLMAN, World Staff Writer
How the project-based program operates
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has several subsidized housing programs for low-income people who qualify.
HUD pays subsidies directly to property owners as part of the project-based Section 8 program. Property owners contract with HUD to take part in the program, and if residents move, they lose the housing subsidy.
HUD has 3,685 living units in Tulsa that are part of the project-based program, including 767 units in the 61st Street and Peoria Avenue area.
Rental rates in the project-based apartment sites are capped at a maximum "fair market rate." Provided residents meet income guidelines, properties can be used to house families, the elderly or the disabled.
A database on HUD's website states that the fair-market rate for Tulsa is $599 for a one-bedroom apartment, $732 for a two-bedroom and $967 for a three-bedroom unit.
HUD pays property owners per unit based on a formula that includes the monthly income received by each family or resident living in a unit, minus certain exclusions, such as deductions for children and elderly family members or for active duty military pay. The formula takes into account a variety of factors but is generally equal to 30 percent of the family's adjusted monthly income.
The program is separate from the "housing choice" voucher program, which allows residents to use a voucher at any participating landlord's property.
- ZIVA BRANSTETTER, World Enterprise Editor
Original Print Headline: Inspection overdue
Ziva Branstetter 918-581-8306
Curtis Killman 918-581-8471
Chiquilia Richardson and Amber Vickers (right) study at South Tulsa Community House in Tulsa last week. Richardson and Vickers, both residents of Fairmont Terrace apartments, are working to get their GEDs. JOHN CLANTON / Tulsa World
Vincent Njoroge, a Tulsa City-County Health Department inspector, checks a stairway at the Heatherstone Apartments in Tulsa last week in response to a report of it being unsafe. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World