Council member wants apartments shut down following repeat complaints
BATON ROUGE - An apartment complex off of North Ardenwood has been a popular subject of 2 On Your Side calls. The near-weekly calls are from tenants at Serenity Apartments and often involve complaints about sewage, mold, or lack of repairs.
One tenant still hasn't moved in after the apartment he was shown turned out completely different from the apartment he was rented. His mother, Catherine Perrin drove in from out-of-town to help him move in.
"I would let my pet rat live there," she said.
Perrin's son, Anthony, was supposed to be rented apartment 227. But, when they arrived last week, they were informed that the unit was not available and were instead given keys to apartment 75.
"The roof started leaking on us the next morning. You can see the cabinets are full of mildew and mold," Perrin said.
When Anthony first walked into apartment 75, he was hit with a strong cigarette odor. Cigarettes litter the windowsill and ash is sprinkled on the bathroom counter tops. The kitchen cabinets are covered in mold and look as if they might fall from the ceiling. Food left in the fridge from the previous tenants has spoiled and sewage has backed up into the master bathroom toilet. A hole in the ceiling above the kitchen stove leaks water from the unit above.
"You put my family, my child, my 20-year-old son at risk," Perrin said.
When Anthony first viewed Serenity Apartments he was shown a much nicer unit. It looked as if it had recently been redone with a fresh coat of paint, new counter tops and carpeting. Now, a closer look at the property shows a lot of issues.
Over the last few months, 2 On Your Side has received at least a dozen phone calls about Serenity Apartments. All of them have been complaints about poor living conditions. Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis has also received a number of calls about the property and says it's time for the place to shut down.
"No one should have to live in these conditions, and they should not be continuing to rent units to people to live over here," Collins-Lewis said.
In the last seven years, the city-parish 311 call center has logged and responded to 20 individual complaints about sewage. Collins-Lewis says the city-parish has been out to the property to clean out the sewage lines but found the issue isn't on the city's end.
"I really want to see it shut down," Collins-Lewis said. "I've tried to work with management. There's been different owners of this property. We know people need affordable units, but affordable does not mean that people need to live in any kind of condition."
Other tenants cant attest that their issues go unaddressed. Outside the leasing office Monday, a woman asked for her maintenance request to be addressed in a timely manner. According to the woman knocking on the door, a manager was inside but would not open the door.
Areas of the campus are riddled with holes in the ground, open pipes sticking out of the ground, exposed electrical panels, and broken glass.
This isn't the first time WBRZ has reported on issues at Serenity Apartments. In December 2019, residents complained about sewage backups and other maintenance complaints.
Collins-Lewis, whose term ends Dec. 31, 2020, says she plans to look into whether the city-parish can condemn Serenity Apartments.
Perrin and her son wish to put this experience behind them. They have contacted corporate to have their money refunded. Her son needs the money reimbursed so he can put it toward a new place to call home.
"We just want our money back," she said.
A Serenity Apartments manager, Jay Mann, contacted 2 On Your Side Monday afternoon and said management recently put a "ton of money" into some of the units and updated its sewer. It doesn't appear that the upgrades affected the entire property. Mann couldn't say why Perrin's son was given the keys to a dirty, moldy unit.