Residents, property owners in legal dispute over safety concerns

News

JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Residents at a Johnston apartment complex are at odds with the property owners amid safety concerns within the buildings.

Several tenants of the federally-subsidized Park Plaza Apartments tell Eyewitness News they have hired lawyers to keep them from being forced to move back in.

In the last year, nearly all of the tenants of the property have been staying at hotels at the owner’s expense because of a mold infestation. 

Attorney Bob Corrente who is representing the owner, Stay Away From The Cans, LLC, said when they purchased the property in 2018, they weren’t aware of the mold issues in the building or floods in the apartments in the prior years.

Residents were sent letters informing them their unit did not pass air inspection. Corrente said crews have been working for several months to remediate all of the units so residents can move back in.

Norma Rose is one of those tenants. She’s been living in a hotel with her two teenage children.

“My bathroom has high levels of mold,” she said. “I’m more concerned about my children living here again because of the situation… and they’re moving people back in this week.”

Rose and a couple of other tenants brought Eyewitness News inside their apartments to see their concerns first hand. In one instance, the ceiling and wall were separating, allowing daylight to shine into the building.

In another tenants apartment that has been given a certificate of habitability by the town of Johnston, the tub and sink were covered in building materials. 

The United States Department of Housing and Urban development said 27 units have already been fully remediated and another four are about to be signed off.

The remaining 31 units are scheduled to be completed within the next few weeks.

Some tenants said they’re thankful the owners are now taking action, but Norma said she refuses to move back in.

“It’s been six months. What have they done?” she said.

Attorney Artin Coloian is representing Rose and 80 other tenants. They have filed in municipal court to stop the move-ins and force Stay Away From The Cans to continue to pay for hotel rooms until more remediation work is completed.

Coloian called the apartments ‘scenes from a third-world country’.

Corrente said his client is spending tens of thousands of dollars every week on hotel costs. He said the Town of Johnston has signed off on the work and that tenants are trying to move the goal post.

Rose said she and the other tenants being represented by Coloian have petitioned to be moved to other federally-subsized housing but are on waiting lists.

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