MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis apartment complex owner that has had repeated utility shut-offs due to nonpayment is also getting city tax breaks, a Problem Solvers investigation found.
David Jackson and Gloria Cochran alerted the Problem Solvers to the issue when their electricity got cut off at the Garden View Apartments on Whitaker Drive in Whitehaven.
“I got breathing machines in there. I can’t hook them up and use it,” Cochran said.
According to MLGW officials, they cut off the Garden View Apartments for non-payment. The WREG Problem Solvers obtained notices showing the warnings to the owner, Garden View LLC, with at one point more than $10,000 overdue.
“It’s just not right,” Jackson said.
“I think they are slumlords,” Cochran said.
The Problem Solvers tried to get answers, but a person in the management office said they could not talk.
Eventually, MLGW told us the new owners never changed the account to their name. The mistake exemplifies mismanagement that tenants say goes beyond bills.
“When I go to the garbage can I have to step over garbage to put my garbage in the garbage can,” Cochran said.
She added that she’d paid out of pocket to have the lawn mowed at the complex.
Finding the owners proved complicated; according to Shelby County property records, the “Garden View LLC” is registered to a Brooklyn, New York apartment address. Documents from the Tennessee Secretary of State show the Garden View owners also had several other properties in Memphis, including Sunrise Villas on Winchester.
Maykala Christian lives at Sunrise with her children. She said her utilities had also gotten turned off.
“This is what we have to deal with,” she said.
Turns out, MLGW has sent cut-off notices at Sunrise as well.
“Everybody pays their bill that’s fine but we still have to suffer because of the complex that’s not doing their part,” Christian said.
Documents also show the owners are getting a tax break; they identify Shimon Weinberger and Matty Wercberger of Brooklyn, New York as the owners, who are potentially saving thousands of dollars a year through a PILOT from the Memphis Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board.
The Problem Solvers obtained the board inspections of the Sunrise Villas complex. They discussed some improvements but focused more on the issues by citing “trash on ground” and a “backed up sewer line.” Inspectors ultimately concluded the “property looks dirty and unkempt.”
Memphis Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board members rejected our request for an interview, but answered questions through their attorney over email. We asked if these circumstances met their expectations.
“The Board’s external monitors viewed the Sunrise Terrace property and found deficiencies which are still being monitored. The PILOT lessee advised that they are working on addressing the deficiencies and the property has not been declared in legal default, as yet,” the board’s attorney stated.
He clarified the purpose of the Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board by calling it “an incentive to facilitate affordable housing” and said they are “far from a ‘cure all.’” In the past, when the board has cut ties with property owners, it ended up hurting tenants, he said.
When we finally reached out-of-state owners Wercberger and Weinberger on the phone, they told us they didn’t own any property in our area and hung up.
Meanwhile, the day after we visited Garden View, the utilities got turned back on.
But for renters who say they pay on time every month, it’s tough to accept their landlords are the ones getting tax breaks.
“They shouldn’t get one because it’s a lot of work to be done. I don’t see them putting in a lot of work and money used to what it need to be used to. These apartments should be better than what they are,” Christian said.
“Slumlords,” Cochran said. “I would love to have a maintenance man when I need it, my grounds cut.”
The Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board says it continues to update policies and procedures for better oversight.
Memphis Code Enforcement cited the Garden View property after calls from residents who spoke with the Problem Solvers. So far, owners have not showed up to multiple hearings in environmental court.