MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Representatives from the the Memphis Towers Tenants Union planned to once again go before the Memphis Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board Wednesday to ask members to reconsider the tax incentives it provides to the owners of the taxpayer funded complex.
This comes one day after attorneys who recently filed a class action lawsuit against the owners, Ohio-based Millennia, visited residents at Memphis Towers and two other Memphis properties run by Millennia.
Tenants at Memphis Towers have long complained about safety and security at the complex.
The lawsuit, in Arkansas’ Pulaski County Circuit Court, was filed on on Sept. 7 on behalf of six residents at Millennia owned Shorter College Gardens Apartments and “all others similarly situated,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit stemmed from a deadly fire at Shorter Gardens in North Little Rock in October of 2022. Three people were killed and several families were displaced.
Alleged in the suit, is that the defendants “have established a pattern of knowingly renting apartment units in unsafe, uninhabitable conditions and purposefully neglecting the responsibility to eradicate known dangerous conditions within a time reasonable.”
“What we learned was there was a common denominator amongst all the properties, and that common denominator was tenants complaining about habitability,” said Terris C. Harris, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.
Harris spoke with the WREG Investigators before their firm’s visit to Memphis.
Harris explained, “We have had a lot of people to reach out. We all know that a lot of people can’t come to us, so we’re coming to them listen to their concerns and let them know about the lawsuit that we’ve filed obviously.”
While in town, attorneys visited Memphis Towers, Serenity Towers and Hope Heights. WREG has reported extensively on problems at all three properties.
The same day of the visit, attorneys for Serenity Towers were in Shelby County Environmental Court where they were fined $4,000 for non-working elevators and air conditioning.
As of Wednesday morning, County Code administrators confirmed three out of four elevators were operational at Serenity Towers. The judge said all four must be working by the next court appearance set for Oct. 10.
In a statement, Millennia said in part, “The lawsuit that was filed appears to be taking advantage of a tragic situation at a property in North Little Rock, Arkansas known as Shorter College Apartments, where three people died in October of 2022 due to a fire. The lawsuit indicates that the fire was related to a gas leak without any evidence for that fact and blames Millennia for the fire. After the fire, in December of 2022, the Arkansas Public Service Commission Pipeline Safety Office determined that there was no evidence that natural gas played a role in the fire. This fact is notably excluded from the recently filed lawsuit. Further, the fact that the lawsuit cites news articles rather than actual court findings is additional evidence of the frivolous nature of the lawsuit.”