A judge ruled Wednesday that tenants of Alexander Apartments on Colonel Glenn Road don't have to move out of their homes over the Christmas holiday as Little Rock officials had ordered earlier this week.
Circuit Judge Alice Gray set a hearing for Tuesday on the dispute between Alexander Apartments owner Jason Bolden and the city over fire code violations.
Gray granted Bolden's request for a temporary restraining order against the city, preventing it from shutting down the apartments Monday evening.
Fire Chief Gregory Summers posted notice at the apartment complex at the start of the week saying that all utilities would be shut off at 5 p.m. Monday and all tenants must vacate the premises before then.
He ordered the apartment complex shut down because of "numerous violations," including "exposed wiring, evidence of raw sewage, absent and nonworking smoke alarms, appearance of mold, carcass of a cat, water settling on the roof [and] plumbing and mechanical issues," according to the notice.
Property manager Courtney Bailes said by phone after Wednesday's short hearing that she was working on informing tenants that they don't have to move out over Christmas weekend.
"We are so excited. Everybody out here is just whooping and hollering," Bailes said. The tenants "are so relieved."
In Bolden's request for the restraining order, he said he would lose rental income of $43,000 a month if the city forced everyone to move. There are about 90 occupied units in the 140-unit complex. Most tenants said Tuesday that they pay about $650 per month in rent.
Attorneys with Legal Aid of Arkansas, the Consumer Protection Clinic at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Arkansas Community Organizations asked to intervene in the case between Bolden and the city on behalf of the tenants. The attorneys accepted the tenants as clients pro bono.
The city objected to the intervention Wednesday. That issue is to be taken up at next week's hearing before Gray, set for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in Room 350 at the Pulaski County Courthouse.
The tenants also requested the temporary restraining order, due process and more time to relocate. They listed grievances against Bolden and the city.
"The city violated the Fourteenth Amendment when it ordered the termination of the tenants' utility services and right to possession of their apartments without an adequate procedural process to allow the tenants an opportunity to contest the decision," the motion to intervene said.
Four tenants also submitted affidavits detailing problems in their apartment units, including plumbing problems, lack of wheelchair accessibility and backed up sewage.
Each said Bolden either refused to fix the issues, didn't follow up, or in one instance told the tenant to find another place to live.
Bailes, the property manager, said Bolden plans to present evidence to dispute some of the purported violations that the city is calling life-threatening. For example, live wires the city said are exposed at the complex are TV cables that aren't active, Bailes said.
Bolden hired an electrician to inspect the premises to verify that everything was in good shape, she said.
Bolden didn't return phone calls or text messages seeking comment Wednesday.
Summers, the fire chief, wants to require Bolden to hire an electrical engineer, mechanical engineer and plumber to inspect the complex before allowing it to reopen. He also wants all of the purported life-threatening code violations -- which are listed in detail on a seven-page document -- fixed before tenants can reoccupy the complex.
Resource specialists with the city's Housing and Neighborhood Programs Department had been working with Alexander Apartment tenants on finding new places to live before Monday. City Manager Bruce Moore said Wednesday that the city would continue to offer such resources.
"The safety of our citizens is the city's highest priority," Moore said through a spokesman. "While we will wait and see what comes out of next week's hearing regarding Alexander Apartments, the city remains dedicated to seeing that these tenants have a safe place to call home."
Metro on 12/24/2015
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Print Headline: Apartments' tenants stay, judge decides