HUD issues Kingsley Park deadline

Landex given 30 days to fix housing violations

October 28, 2003|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Two recent surprise inspections by federal investigators at Kingsley Park Apartments in Baltimore County found widespread housing violations, including rodent and roach infestation, potentially dangerous electrical problems, faulty toilets and rotting floors.

As a result of the findings, contained in a 23-page report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, federal officials have advised county leaders that contracts between HUD and Landex Corp., the owner of the complex, be reviewed to assure compliance with housing standards for the more than 300 tenants.

"While the [HUD] inspections were a surprise to the owner, the inspection results should be a surprise to no one," said Damian O'Doherty, spokesman for County Executive James T. Smith Jr.

Thirty-one of 35 occupied apartments failed inspections. Three other vacant units also failed.

Leslie M. Pittler, lawyer for Landex President Judith S. Siegel, said yesterday that the company "has accomplished some corrections, and the others will be completed by the end of the 30-day deadline."

Among the problems found at Kingsley Park, in the heart of an east-side revitalization zone:

An uncovered and faulty electrical outlet in a child's bedroom.

Exposed wires in bedroom ceiling lights.

Front doors or windows that could not be properly locked. Many tenants have told The Sun that drug dealers in front of their buildings threaten or intimidate them.

Holes in ceilings and walls. Residents have said the Landex maintenance office either disregards their maintenance requests or does sloppy repairs.

Malfunctioning toilets, stoves and refrigerators.

Landex has 30 days to correct the violations found in the HUD inspection.

Federal officials said that if the deficiencies are not addressed within that time frame, steps "must be taken to remove the unit" from being federally subsidized.

The HUD team told Lois Cramer, administrator of the county Housing Office, that her agency should inform Landex to make the repairs.

County inspectors, who have complained to The Sun about being held to federal housing guidelines, also came in for warnings from HUD. Inspectors, the report said, overlooked or missed several violations, but it added that rental housing inspections receive high grades countywide.

If those misses were to exceed a certain threshold, HUD would consider reducing administrative fees paid the county housing authority, said Lance Glaeser, a county inspections supervisor.

The HUD inspections this month were prompted by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who has characterized conditions at Kingsley Park as "deplorable." Mikulski also has called for a broader examination of the complex, where rents range from $594 for one bedroom to $689 for two bedrooms.

HUD figures show that the agency has provided Kingsley Park with approximately $1.6 million annually since 1988. This year, HUD said, the figure would be about $1.3 million.

Other federal funds given to Landex for Kingsley Park included a $300,000 grant for landscaping in 1988; a $250,000 grant in the late 1990's for crime prevention; and a $112,722 grant for drug elimination last year, according to HUD.

Landex's outstanding mortgage balance with HUD is more than $9.5 million.

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