WHAS11 I-Team investigates 'Louisville's worst landlord'

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by Adam Walser

WHAS11.com

Posted on May 7, 2012 at 6:32 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 8 at 10:22 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- A Louisville landlord has been fined thousands of dollars for violations that threaten his tenants' health and safety, but a former employee and current tenants say many of his properties remain un-livable.

“It's raw sewage. It's actually coming from the lines. It's leaking here. We've got leaks here,” said Rosalind Blair, pointing to puddles in the basement of the Greystone Building, which used to be one on Old Louisville’s finest mansions.

The mansion is now carved up into 35 apartments, with a shared basement.

Blair used to manage to the building.

“We’re constantly finding condoms and stuff down here,” she said, pointing to an unlocked series of rooms in the basement. “People coming down here doing their thing. Doing drugs and stuff,” said Blair.

Across town in Clifton, more Clark apartments are in need of repairs.

Resident Sherri Preu has to shoot bug spray at roaches running through her kitchen. Preu says she wages a daily war against the roaches.

The metal stairs to second floor apartments are nearly rusted through and tenants say that roofs leak.

While the signs say units come with free heating and air, Preu says there’s no hot water in her apartment.

“It's a lower standard of living, that's for sure,” said another tenant, who didn’t want to be identified.

John Clark and his company own roughly 2,000 apartments, according to the Metro Louisville Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits.

 “I would never come back. I can't wait for my lease to come up,” said tenant Ally Sprigler, who moved in after being offered a first month’s rent special of $299 she says she saw advertised in a local newspaper.

“He's not fixing it. We're living in horrible situations and just having to take it. There's not much you can do,” said Preu.

John Clark came to WHAS11's studio Monday afternoon, accompanied by his attorney and public relations consultant.

He says that he has made major improvements in the past year, including hiring new managers, adding more maintenance workers and shifting job duties among existing employees.

Clark says tenants are complaining to the wrong people.

“We've coached them, we sent communications out the quickest way to get things resolved is to call the office. We will know it firsthand,” said Clark.

In that past three years, the WHAS11 I-Team has done stories about multiple instances of Clark's tenants being exposed to raw sewage.

In one apartment, we discovered a woman who hoarded more than 50 cats for several years.

Clark's worst property, by far, is the Arcadia Apartment complex in south Louisville. It looks like a ghost town.

Hundreds of run-down apartments with boarded up doors and broken windows invite trouble.

 “I feel very confident about the safety and the cleanliness we have at Arcadia. There are individual issues that come up and I can't know at all times how a person chooses to house keep their home,” said Clark.

Ruth Jacobs, an Arcadia tenant, says the vacant apartments could pose a safety issue.

“I do what I got to do. I go back into my apartment and I stay there,” Jacobs said.

But John Clark doesn't have to worry about his safety. He lives in an exclusive Indian Hills compound, which has a tax value of nearly a million dollars.

Despite personal wealth, Blair says Clark rarely invests in his rental properties.

“I blame the Clarks, but I blame city officials for letting it get this far,” said Blair.

“We have an inspector who spends two days in Arcadia a week,” said Beth Bishop, who oversees housing code violations for Metro Louisville.

Her office has been trying to get Clark to comply with city regulations for years.

“We had exhausted all of our administrative notices and our remedies. He did not comply, so we took him to district court and he had to go before a judge,” said Bishop.

The city had to issue Clark dozens of criminal citations, when civil remedies failed.

“He has 90, 88 of them were specifically for Arcadia Apartments,” said Bishop.

After more than a year in the court system, the judge ordered Clark to get the apartments up to code by November or face a $50,000 fine.

If that doesn’t work, Bishop says Clark may eventually have to face jail time. “He may at some point. That's the only thing that works,” said Bishop.

Clark told WHAS11 that won't be an issue. He says he's arranged financing for more than $20 million in improvements at Arcadia, which will create 200 jobs and more than 400 affordable housing units.

“They've slid by the radar for so long. Everyone just smacks their hands and lets it pass. They give these poor little people a break. Who's actually gonna give our poor tenants a break?” said Blair.

City officials say there are no more excuses for Clark not to make his tenants' homes habitable.

“They're supposed to expect the same conditions that you would in Lake Forest or Polo Fields. It's all the same,” Bishop said.

Tenants who are living in conditions which are not up to city housing codes can legally get out of their leases.

For more information on Kentucky housing law, you can consult the legal aid network at the following link: http://www.kyjustice.org/node/684

 

 

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