MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Local officials have initiated an investigation into a troubled Highland Street high-rise apartment housing elderly and disabled tenants.
The Shelby County Assessor’s Office said in a letter to state Rep. G.A. Hardaway that it is examining the condition of Serenity Towers at 400 S. Highland, per the lawmaker’s request.
Serenity Towers and its owners The Millennia Companies have been under fire and in court for years for complaints including broken elevators, bed bugs, no hot water and more. Just last week, owners claimed they were repairing a broken air conditioning system, as residents suffered in the heat.
Hardaway said for tenants, the poor condition of the building is literally a matter of life and death.
“The issue is simply abuse of elderly and disabled tenants,” Hardaway said Thursday on WREG’s Live At 9, “We’ve got seniors who are subjected to hundred-plus degree temperatures inside their apartments. We’ve got seniors who have to navigate up and down eight to 10 flights of steps while they’re without the air.”
Last year, county code inspectors suited up before inspecting Serenity Towers for problems including air conditioning and mold.
State inspectors, in a report from last year, called the conditions they found at Serenity Towers “life-threatening.”
The building’s owners receive federal subsidies for Serenity Towers and other apartment buildings the company owns in Memphis.
Hardaway said the company is contractually and morally obligated to the tenants.
“It’s a corporate entity that has learned to play the system. They haven’t been given property oversight and regulation. I’m going to bring an end to that,” Hardaway said.
The Millennia Companies sent a response to WREG’s reporting in May after another environmental court appearance over Serenity Towers. The company said it had inherited years of previous neglect at its Memphis properties, and was working to renovate the buildings.
“To state that Millennia apartment communities have constant upkeep issues is incorrect. Since Millennia has engaged with properties in Memphis, its goal has been to facilitate substantial rehabilitations to preserve much needed affordable housing units for families, seniors, and those with disabilities,” the company said, in part.