RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Residents of an apartment building on Richmond’s northside are speaking out after what they say has been years of neglect by an absent landlord.
On an overcast day in November, Brianna Baird stepped out of her unit on the ground floor of the Red Oak Apartments on Chamberlayne Avenue. A few feet away, a mop leaned against her trash bag-wrapped wall-mounted AC unit, which has sat crooked since another resident hit it with their car over two years ago.
The unit still works, but, Baird said, “If I turn this on it trips the circuit for the rest of the apartment.”
No one from management has been out to repair the unit, and Baird says that she’s had to focus on bigger issues with the apartment. Another resident, Mario, had his AC go out earlier this year.
“I had to go through the whole summer with no AC,” he said. Eventually, like Baird, he gave up on waiting for the landlord to respond, and took matters into his own hand, jury-rigging it back to semi-working order using Youtube tutorials.
Baird told 8News that part of the problem is that it’s not clear who, exactly, should be responsible for fixing these things. She said that since she moved in, management has changed several times, and since the COVID pandemic began, the rental office has only been open sporadically.
There’s a phone line to the office, but, according to Baird, “It would just click and hang up.”
8News attempted to contact Red Oaks Apartments through the phone number listed on their website. After navigating an automated menu, which did not have the option to speak with anyone in the company’s rental office, we left a message requesting comment on this story. That request was not returned before publication.
Red Oaks is now owned by Ginter Park LLC, a company that owns dozens of apartments buildings along Chamberlayne Avenue. They purchased Red Oaks, along with many of their other properties, from the Zacharias Brothers — a local family that has faced protests of their own — for over $10 million in July 2020.
According to Virginia corporate records, Ginter Park LLC is registered to a suburban home in Lakewood, New Jersey, belonging to Boruch Fogel.
Issues in the building go beyond broken AC units. The building has a record of city code violations, with the most recent focusing on the crumbling brickwork of the apartment’s façade.
“I received complaints from tenants that brick is cracked and crumbling under 2nd floor railing and show signs of stair-step cracks,” a city inspector wrote on Nov. 7, 2022. He later found that the building was in violation of the City code for “defective maintenance.”
Baird told 8News she almost had to send her daughter, who suffers from a severe, chronic illness, to a hospital in Norfolk at her own expense because the leasing office delayed fixing a leak in her roof. Doctors told Baird they couldn’t let her daughter stay in the apartment with the risk of mold brought on by the leak.
Another apartment just a few doors down has been left empty since the tenant moved out five months ago. When 8News viewed it, the door was unlocked and the front room was strewn with trash. The heat was on full blast and the empty apartment was sweltering, which Baird said has been the case for months.
“This is a huge source of the bugs and rodents,” Baird said, gesturing at the empty apartment. “They don’t care about this apartment or anyone over here.”
Baird said there was one person who looked out for residents of the apartment building over the years: a maintenance worker named Hassan Dixon, Sr.
“That man was the only man who gave a f— about us over here,” she said.
But in 2021, Dixon, known as a “gentle giant” to his family, was killed in an apparently random shooting.
As Baird has struggled to keep up with her daughter’s medical expenses, she said she was holding out for pandemic rental relief to help her make ends meet. She filled out her paperwork, and had officials confirm that it was accepted — but no update followed.
She was left in limbo for months before a housing official finally told her that the landlord had simply never submitted their half of the paperwork.
Mario also applied for the program, and said his half of the application has been approved since Aug. 19. But when he reached out to the building management to ask when they would submit their half, he never received an answer.
“It shouldn’t be hard to contact these people,” he said. “I never got answers, so I never got the rent relief program.”
8News reached out to Red Oaks Apartments for comment, but did not receive a response before publication.