Even after housing a ‘nightmare’, new tenants pay more at Grand Apartments
EVERETT — Steve Teixeira is almost ready to leave the State Apartments. Life is still a nightmare, he says, and it’s time to move on.
Dimension Townhouses, a Renton-based real estate company, never stopped trying to bully tenants out of the building, Teixeira said. Older and disabled tenants disappeared.
“They only rent to young, white, able-bodied people,” Teixeira said. “I don’t see any disabled people, any elderly people, any people of color. It really bothers me.
Dimension Townhouses also operates under the names “Dimension Properties” and “Dimension Property Management”. He bought the three-story building last summer when the previous owner was ready to retire. In October, residents described life with their corporate landlord as “a nightmare of epic proportions”.
Dimension did not respond to a Herald reporter’s request for comment for this story.
Teixeira is one of the last original tenants, but he is leaving soon. He’s spent the last seven months working with a lawyer from the Northwest Justice Project and doesn’t want to fight Dimension anymore.
Mark Wiggen, 58, is also leaving. Wiggen learned a few weeks ago that Dimension was raising his rent to $1,300. He’s counting on Social Security disability benefits and can’t afford the raise.
“I’m just going to one bedroom, but I’ll have full access to the apartment,” Wiggen said. “I would like to have my own house, but I won’t for a while. The options here for a disabled person are limited.
“As long as they do the bare minimum”
Over the past year, Dimension has left tenants without working fire alarm systems, turned off their water without notice and threatened them, according to residents who spoke to the Daily Herald. Tenants reported issues to city and state agencies, but the company did not face many consequences.
Teixeira said Dimension had shut off its water without warning “too many times to count” since October and tenants were “almost constantly” without hot water.
The ceiling in Teixeira’s apartment had a slight leak last summer, but it got progressively worse. Water drips every time someone showers. In February, the entire bathroom floor was soaked.
In December, Teixeira filed a complaint with Adult Protective Services. Dimension had removed the names of two tenants from their utility accounts, which caused them to lose power and heat, Teixeira said. Both tenants were elderly or disabled.
Over the past month, new tenants have started renting the apartments. Oisin Thompson said he saw the issues Teixeira described, but was unaffected by most of them. Thompson recently accepted a job in Everett. Before moving to the State Apartments, he spent three months in an Airbnb in Lake Stevens.
The Grands Appartements have received some aesthetic improvements since October. It offers chic, renovated apartments with trendy floors, fresh paint and new appliances. They rent up to $1,325.
“It was a decent place,” Thompson said of his decision to move to The Grand. “It was reasonably priced and it was the right size. There aren’t tons of options out there. I’ll give them some credit, it’s nice inside the apartment current.
Thompson said Dimension informed him before turning off the water. The ceiling in his apartment did not leak. The biggest problem is that the building is running out of hot water, Thompson said, and the situation has worsened over the past two weeks. He also had to install his own WiFi.
“For me, I don’t have any real regrets,” Thompson said. “Overall, it’s nice. WiFi was annoying, but as long as they do the bare minimum it will be fine.
“Our investigations are ongoing”
It doesn’t appear the city of Everett has fined Dimension, even though the city’s office of the fire marshal found the company violated fire codes last year. Earlier this month, a city code enforcement team also discovered that Dimension was working on the building without a permit.
“Our investigations are ongoing,” Everett spokeswoman Kimberley Cline said by email. “We plan to work with the owners to rectify the issues encountered.”
City records show the fire department responded to four false alarms before inspecting the property in September. The inspector found nine fire code violations, including that the building’s alarm system was overdue for an inspection, the building lacked lighted exit signs and the fire extinguishers had not been serviced by a contractor approved. The most recent safety inspection was in October, Cline said.
The fire marshal found the alarm system to be “functional”, but “some fire extinguishers needed repair”. The fire department responded to another false alarm in December, according to city records.
In April, Teixeira called 911 about another alarm problem.
“I heard that piercing sound,” Teixeira said. “Sure, a warning tone went off and I was like, ‘Oh fuck, the alarm is going off again. It was night, I opened my door and it was dark in the hallway.
Thompson said all the lights in the hallway were off when he got home and the fire marshal was already in the building. The incident report said the alarm system “reported problems but not alarming” and that there was “no light in the hallway”.
“(Engine 2) investigates and finds hot water system work partially completed, with several circuit breakers off,” according to the incident report. “One is ‘the fire alarm.’ When turned back on, the fire alarm system returns to normal.E2 advised the resident to speak to the landlord of the apartment before operating any other circuit breakers, as there were open and unprotected wires in the the laundry room. ”
The city does not issue fines for fire code violations, Cline said. It charges “inspection fees”.
The fire safety inspection fee is $5 per unit for multi-family buildings like the Grands Appartements, plus a fee for “significant common areas”. The maximum fee for common areas is $352.
The fire department does not charge building owners for the first three responses to avoidable false fire alarms. The fourth answer and additional answers cost $308 each.
Cline said the city’s code enforcement unit, which deals with other safety issues and unsafe buildings, did not receive a complaint until earlier this month. A code officer inspected the building on May 6 and found there had been “recent work on the water heating system without a permit,” Cline said.
The city sent a notice to Dimension to comply Monday. Cline said the city has options if Dimension ignores the letter, but the most likely is for the city’s hearing reviewer to determine how the city responds. The Hearing Reviewer has the power to impose fines.
The Everett Tenants’ Union
In October, Teixeira wanted to fight more than his expulsion notice. He felt that his neighbors were in danger and that Dimension was intentionally pushing away tenants with disabilities.
Most of the original tenants of the Grands Appartements met with a lawyer from the Northwest Justice Project. In the end, however, they decided staying at the Grand wasn’t worth fighting for. Teixeira, the last tenant, is also done fighting Dimension, he said.
He hopes a new group he’s starting, the Everett Tenants Union, will help tenants who find themselves in similar situations. The online community allows tenants to share information and resources, Teixeira said. It’s still in its infancy, but he hopes it will also be a platform for Everett tenants to discuss the changes they want to see.
Teixeira’s top priorities? More code enforcement and tougher penalties.
“They have the right to earn money,” Teixeira said. ” I understand. But not at the expense of personal safety.
Katie Hayes is a member of the Report for America body and writes about issues affecting the working class for the Daily Herald.