Seven apartment complexes in Oklahoma City have an unenviable record of code violations, complaints and overdue property tax bills.
One is partially burned and inhabited by rats, cockroaches and the occasional squatter. Inside another, a tenant lives with a hole in the ceiling and carpeting that's pulled away from the floor.
Code enforcement officers documented 203 code violations between 2008 and early this year. Owners owe more than $200,000 in back taxes and unpaid liens.
Residents put up with eyesore buildings they say attract vagrants, drive down property values and contribute to an increase in crime in their neighborhoods.
Yet, the problems persist.
Oklahoma City is limited in the action it can take against owners of abandoned and neglected structures, said Russell Claus, the planning director.
Costs don't fall on property owners, he said: “The laws are skewed in favor of the building being subsidized by the taxpayers.”
The city plans to release a study this month to provide options to the city council.
The seven are:
• Courtyard Apartments, 3732 NW 23 St.
• Grand Boulevard Townhomes, 2269 NE Grand Blvd.
• Lantana Apartments, 7408 NW 10 St.
• Stonybrook West Apartments, 3109 N Portland Ave.
• University Pointe Apartments, 1509 NW 30 St.
• Property at 1420 NE 9 St.
• Property at 3720 N Pennsylvania Ave.
Officials speak out
Ward 1 City Council Member James Greiner, who lives two blocks from the Lantana, said he believes nuisance and abandoned apartments are a citywide problem.
“Those apartments need to be knocked down and used for another purpose, renovated for another purpose or reused for another purpose,” Greiner said.
“They should be used for something productive and if not, they need to go away,” he said. “It's a nuisance, an eyesore and lowers property values.”
Claus said the “standard of dilapidation is pretty low.”
“The city requires the property to be secure, in good condition, painted, the yard kept, no high grass and weeds and no serious signs of external signs of deterioration,” Claus said.
“Things have to get into a bad state of condition for us to take action.”
Citizen complaints drive the process, he said.
AMG Riverton LLC of Santa Monica, Calif., bought the Lantana for $645,000 in June 2012.
AMG Riverton's Mike Minder said he bought the Lantana because he believes the metro-area rental base is strong enough to turn the property around.
Dianna Ewing and her husband formed the Council Oaks Neighborhood Association after watching their neighborhood, where they have lived for 22 years, go downhill — in part, she said, due to problems caused by the Lantana.
“You don't see kids playing in the yard. People can't open their front doors for fresh air,” she said. “Some of the people have given up and don't care anymore.”
She blames the Lantana's multiple owners and city officials.
“They want to spend all that money downtown, but not on us,” Ewing said.
A ceiling about to cave in from water damage, nails sticking out of unfinished carpet renovations and bedbugs are just a few of the reasons why Joshua Ruark and his family want to move out of Stonybrook West when his lease expires this month.