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Housing advocates ask St. Louis city officials to relocate Fountains at Carondelet tenants

Tenants at Fountains at Carondelet in south St. Louis are frustrated with their lack of property management. Many have complained for years, and now housing advocates are calling on St. Louis officials for help.
Evie Hemphill
St. Louis Public Radio
Tenants at Fountains at Carondelet in south St. Louis are frustrated with their lack of property management. Many have complained for years, and now housing advocates are calling on St. Louis officials for help.

Tenants at the Fountains at Carondelet apartments have been complaining about mold, uncontrollable pests, leaky ceilings and electrical problems for years. Housing advocates are now urging St. Louis officials to help relocate them and provide resources for livable temporary and permanent housing.

We The Tenants Campaign, ArchCity Defenders and Action St. Louis told city officials on Tuesday in a letter about the neglect tenants are faced with because of poor property management. Housing advocates are worried about the health and safety of tenants who live near extensively damaged vacant units. They also are alerting officials to the eviction notices that some tenants have received from management, despite not receiving any maintenance or upkeep to their properties.

This is an urgent matter that deserves action from city leaders to help tenants stay in their homes and avoid eviction and possible homelessness, said Jacki Langum, deputy executive director of ArchCity Defenders.

“I fear though we're at the point where I don't think that this property — based on my understanding of it — I don't know if it's salvageable to get it in a habitable condition,” Langum said. “For the people who are currently living there, I sincerely hope that wouldn’t happen, but we're at the end of the road … and the conditions are just continuing to pile up.”

The Fountains at Carondelet is located off Bandero Drive and Primm Street in south St. Louis. The complex was previously called Southwest Crossing and is now under a court-appointed receivership through Trigild Inc. The property is managed by Tarantino Management.

Housing advocates have been working with tenants at the complex for years and say that as the property is sold to different entities, the new owners rarely take care of any issues for tenants.

“We've seen this consistently over time, when a new owner comes in, they often bring in a new property manager who is inheriting those problems and say, ‘Hey, we're the new person in town and we're going to hear what you have to say and help you fix the property,’’’ she said. “‘We're hiring new maintenance’ is frequently what we hear, and this is consistent, regardless of the location.”

In the advocates’ May 7 letter addressed to St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, Board of Aldermen President Megan Green, 1st Ward Alderwoman Anne Schweitzer and St. Louis Department of Human Services Director Adam Pearson, they asked city leaders to provide relocation funds to displaced residents, host a housing fair, provide caseworkers to support those looking to relocate, provide resources, a location and transportation for temporary and permanent housing and offer funds to cover moving expenses and security deposits.

Langum said she is following a trend in St. Louis that complex owners are using rental payments to buy new properties instead of maintaining the current properties.

St. Louis Public Radio reached out to the property owner for comment but did not receive a response.

This eviction notice was placed on the doors of tenants who property managers at Fountains at Carondelet say were behind in rent and at risk of eviction.
Action St. Louis
This eviction notice was placed on the doors of tenants who property managers at Fountains at Carondelet say were behind in rent and at risk of eviction.

The eviction notices that tenants have received over the weekend worry Langum, because she said they are not written clearly for attorneys or tenants to understand.

The notice gives tenants 10 days to vacate the apartment or make a suggested payment to the property manager to stay in good standing. If tenants do not pay, they can expect eviction proceedings.

“In Missouri, a landlord must go to court and receive a judgment or possession of the property in order to lawfully evict someone; anything short of that can be an unlawful or illegal eviction.

“We also know, though, that it's possible that there are no evictions for some of the people receiving this notice, and they don't know what their legal rights are,” Langum said. “So we're alarmed because of the conditions of the property … and because there are dozens of tenants there who are uncertain, and they have no place to go.”

Eric Wayne moved into the complex in 2013. He said he did not have any issues with his property until a few years later. Wayne complained about cleaning his carpet and fixing a few things around his apartment, but he did not get a response.

In 2019, he complained again because he noticed mice inside his home.

“Every day I came home from work, I had a mouse I caught in the trap,” he said. “I asked them if they could put some insulation around [the sliding patio doors] because that’s where the mice are getting in.”

He said no one has ever come out to exterminate or replace the insulation around his patio doors since he requested it.

“At one point, I came home and seven days in a row I had a dead mouse in a trap. I bombed the place myself,” Wayne said.

Wayne pays $735 per month for a one-bedroom apartment and says that he stopped paying rent last June since the company tried to cash his rent check twice in one month and that management never resolved many of his property complaints.

Since receiving the eviction notice on Sunday, Wayne has experienced anxiety and depression.

“This is the first time I have received an eviction notice in my life,” he said. “[I’m] depressed, and I'm really pissed off. I'm mad at myself for being in this situation where … maybe I should have been paying, but at the same time, y'all never gave me full service.”

Alderwoman Schweitzer has been following the issues at the apartment complex for some time. She said she wants the city to work harder at finding a livable place for the tenants to reside.

“The city doesn’t have an extra apartment complex to move people to, but it does have some emergency assistance funds, several partnerships with housing agencies, a health department and building inspectors, many lawyers, and a very loud voice,” Schweitzer said. “The city must do whatever it can to help these tenants, and make sure that those responsible for the building are held accountable.”

During the pandemic, as evictions began to rise, federal and local resources were made available to help those struggling to pay rent. However, Langum said many of those funds have run out, and there are not as many resources in the region. Housing advocates say higher rent and fewer affordable homes are exacerbating homelessness.

“Complexes like the Fountains at Carondelet have played an important role in reducing homelessness in our region,” Langum said. “We need to continue to ensure that we have market rate housing that folks who work for minimum wage can afford to live in those homes and not fall into unhoused situations or having to double up with family members or to live in uninhabitable conditions like these tenants have been at Fountains.”

St. Louis officials are aware of the issues tenants are facing and said the city's problem properties team is actively working with the property owner to make necessary improvements.

“This work has so far resulted in the owners hiring 24-hour security, fixing code violations and stabilizing units,” said Rasmus Jorgensen, a spokesperson for the mayor. “Work is ongoing to improve this property."

Housing advocates will continue to press city leaders to treat this property as a crisis property, so officials and advocates will not have to scramble to find housing for those displaced.

“This is becoming an emergency situation, we're not quite at the situation where we were with Heritage House, but folks should not have to live in these conditions,” Langum said. “We need to find habitable places for them to live, that are also affordable for them to live in … and we need the city to use its resources and its relationships to help maximize what is available to these tenants.”

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.