City officials are asking Ingham County Circuit Judge James Jamo to order the owners of the Holmes Apartments to complete repairs of all building safety and housing code violations within 45 days.
The move comes after city housing officials red-tagged a 29-unit apartment building at 2222 W. Holmes Road for being unsafe for occupancy. Spurred by complaints from residents, a city inspection found a leaking roof had caused substantial damage to the building and posed a fire risk. The result was 15 residents were evicted from the property.
The city also wants Jamo to order the owners to provide displaced residents “safe and habitable” housing until the repairs are approved and to require the locks to be changed to prevent unauthorized access.
The suit was filed Monday against Richard and Brad Simtob; Holmes Apartments LLC; The Good Life Apartments LLC and Simtob Management & Investment LLC.
“The basic concept is that the building code violations cause a nuisance,” said City Attorney Jim Smiertka.
The suit argues that the defendants failed to get the necessary permits to work on the complex. As a result of a roof leak, the city argued, the property was at a significant risk for fire because of exposure of wiring to outside weather conditions.
Property owners moved the displaced tenants to Pacific Apartments, 1317 E. Kalamazoo St., last week, but that complex was pink-tagged. A red tag means a property is potentially hazardous and cannot be resided in. A pink tag means a property is not registered as a rental and is unavailable for rent.
City spokesman Scott Bean said the city is now footing the bill for hotels and motels for the displaced residents. The money is usually used for homeless residents, not red-tag eviction victims, Bean said.
The two limited liability companies named in the suit and the Simtobs are part of an interconnected chain of 12 LLCs that own 21 properties in the city. The companies share office space, mailing addresses, managing members and resident agents, Deputy City Attorney Amanda O’Boyle said.
The 21 multi-family properties account for 666 individual apartments. One LLC also owns property in Kalamazoo. Since late 2020, the companies have invested $17,687,920 in purchasing various apartment complexes in the city.
Eight of the 12 properties are for sale, including Holmes Apartments. The red-tagged status of the property was not disclosed in a sales portfolio posted by Global Real Estate Advisors, which has offices in West Bloomfield.
Bradley Simtob did not respond to voicemail and a text message seeking comment.
The offer to sell the properties does not impact the lawsuit, Bean said.
Meanwhile, the Council scheduled a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. next Monday (April 3) to review concerns about red tagging.
“This is a failure to those displaced but also to the residents of this city for a failure to do our jobs. I will accept my responsibility,” said Council member Patricia Spitzley, who sought the special session of the Committee of the Whole.
Council has asked that representatives from the Economic Development and Planning Department, as well as the Human Relations and Community Services Department, participate. “We know that these houses didn’t become tagged overnight. These were properties that got worse,” Council President Carol Wood said. “They weren’t followed up by code. Some of those do fall back on this department. There needs to be some accountability. OK, we’re here, how are we going to get out of this?”
Bean said that the administration “is aware of the lack of follow-up in some red tag monitoring situations and will be looking at all our options to reform the Code Enforcement office. Going forward, we intend to enact a system to ensure red-tag monitoring is more strictly enforced.”
Meanwhile, emails released by Wood show that Code Enforcement Office manager Scott Sanford, who retired unexpectedly March 17, had been barred from communicating with City Council. He allegedly failed to correct an employee he supervised for threatening harm to Council members.
Sanford said in an interview Tuesday that the threat was a “joke” by a 72-year-old employee. He was, he said, given a written reprimand for calling then-candidate Ryan Kost an “ass.”
“They asked me, “‘Did you say this guy was acting like an ass?’” Sanford said. “Yes, I did. Write me up, do whatever you wanna do. That was the extent of my conversation.”
Sanford was the subject of an investigation and “appropriate action,” according to an email from Mayor Andy Schor last month.
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