On October 15th the New Orleans Renters Rights Assembly (NORRA), along with three individual renters, filed to intervene in a Fannie Mae foreclosure case in hopes of securing a new, professional property manager to address the serious health and safety violations at their apartment complexes. The foreclosure case brought by Fannie Mae alleges that Joshua Bruno, of Metro-Wide Apartments, and his companies failed to resume mortgage payments on five different multifamily rental properties after a forbearance period offered by the CARES Act.
The five buildings in foreclosure are:
Cypress Park Apartments in Algiers
Oakmont Apartments in Algiers
Liberty Park Apartments in Central City
Washington Place Apartments in Central City
Forest Park Apartments in Central City
In a separate proceeding in Jefferson Parish, Fannie Mae is foreclosing on Riverview Apartments in Kenner.
NORRA, which is supported by Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative, has members who live at these properties and organizers from NORRA have visited many of the buildings at the invitation of residents. While there, they’ve observed non-working air conditioning units in multiple units during high heat days in the summer, collapsed ceilings, multiple units missing doors and windows, mold growth, water damage, overflowing trash attracting rodents and maggots, and fouled swimming pools.
NORRA also found through court records that Bruno’s companies filed thirty illegal evictions against tenants struggling to pay rent due to COVID-19 at Oakmont, Cypress Park, and Liberty Park. The evictions were illegal under the CARES Act because they were filed while the companies’ mortgages were in forbearance and they therefore had no mortgage payments due.
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS) is representing NORRA and the individual renters in this intervention, including Ms. Judy Robert, a resident of Oakmont Apartments who has had to deal with sewage back-ups for nearly the entire seven years of her stay. The issue had occurred seven or eight times since she moved in and then made her bathroom unusable after Hurricane Ida. Ms. Robert is also recovering from heart surgery and has been told that her home is unsanitary and unsafe for her to stay in during her recovery.
“We’ve documented dozens of serious health and safety violations at these properties prior to COVID-19 or Hurricane Ida. The conditions were dire before and now they are desperate. The residents deserve a new property manager that will respond to requests for repairs and immediately address these serious violations,” said Hannah Adams, an attorney with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.
The two other individual renters included in the petition also had serious safety violations in their units that preceded Hurricane Ida. In one case, the tenant experienced a recurring leak and mold accumulation. During Ida, the apartment took serious water damage when part of the siding came off of the unit during the storm and he has been displaced as a result. In the other case, the tenant is a 75-year-old cancer patient who experienced life-threatening high heat over the summer without air conditioning, despite multiple requests for repairs.
“Our members deserve safe, livable homes, but so do all renters. Slumlords continue to profit off our lax health and safety protections. We need real action from our Mayor and City Council to implement a Healthy Homes program that sets basic health and safety standards and requires regular inspections of apartments,” said Daiquiri Jones, Organizing and Community Engagement Lead at Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative.
See photos and the full petition of intervention here.
“We’ve documented dozens of serious health and safety violations at these properties prior to COVID-19 or Hurricane Ida. The conditions were dire before and now they are desperate. The residents deserve a new property manager that will respond to requests for repairs and immediately address these serious violations”