MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Code inspectors suited up in protective clothing Monday for another inspection at a troubled Highland Street apartment building for seniors.
Twenty-two code inspectors went inside Serenity Towers to inspect the rest of the apartments they didn’t get to last Wednesday.
Serenity Towers has been the focus of an Environmental Court case after residents complained they didn’t have hot water or air conditioning, as well as mold and bedbug complaints.
Robert Knecht with Memphis Public Works said inspectors visited around 100 apartments last week. This was a chance to inspect another 140.
The information will be part of a code violation update given to the judge hearing Serenity’s case in Environmental Court.
“Any type of code violation. As you may know, there are quite a few units that don’t have working air. We have seen a pretty recurring issue with bed bugs. Fruit flies are now becoming an issue,” Knecht said.
According to a code enforcement inspection report that was released Thursday, 35 out of 37 units in the West wing did not have working hot water, heat, or air conditioning while 20 out of the 37 units still had mold and bed bugs. The stoves were not working in 17 of the units as well.
Last week, the attorney representing Serenity Towers said air conditioning has been restored in seven out of 30 units, hot water has been restored to some apartments, and they have a plan to address the issues with mold, along the fruit fly and bed bug infestation.
One resident at the facility died last week. The cause of death has not been released.
Knecht said Serenity’s owners have been cooperative and made some changes.
“They have worked on getting the air conditioning. We know that. They have corrected some of it. They have been responding to the court, which is the other thing we have to do,” Knecht said.
A representative with Millennia Companies, which manages Serenity Towers, told us they are cooperating with inspectors and local officials and making repairs, saying, “Repairs to the main system included fixing a crack in the unit, replacing gaskets and replenishing freon, among others. Now, we are continuing to work as quickly as possible to restore air flow to all units; the work includes checking the blowers and thermostats in the units that continue to have issues.”
The inspectors were suited up in PPE gear Monday to protect themselves from mold and bedbugs.
The dangerous heat wave is an additional concern for those still waiting for air.
“Tenants who are without air, what are the options that the court will allow to happen? We need to judge to be more proactive in protecting residents,” Knetch said. “If there are at-risk residents we want something to be maybe a little more prioritized.”
Millennia Companies said the property management team is assisting residents by maintaining a cooling station for residents along with conducting welfare checks, providing refreshments, and making fans available to residents as they work to get air conditioning restored.
We have reached out to the owners of Serenity for an update on repairs. The housing development will be back in court Tuesday morning.