KIYC: Issues at East Orange apartment building not reported by state housing inspectors
Did state housing inspectors drop the ball about conditions at an apartment complex in East Orange? As News 12 reported Wednesday, tenants of the Castle Apartments in East Orange are suing their landlord over urgent problems they say have been ignored. But a Kane In Your Corner investigation finds that a lot of those problems seemingly went unnoticed by inspectors.
Erica Coleman says she had to go to the hospital with a concussion after her bathroom ceiling collapsed on her. “I just heard a crash and I’m screaming because the whole portion – it’s about 3 feet by 2 feet – fell on my head,” she says.
Coleman is not the only tenant to report problems. Others tell stories of collapsed ceilings, leaking and backed-up plumbing and mold. They say that these issues have largely gone unrepaired. News 12 New Jersey’s Chris Keating documented many of those problems Wednesday on camera.
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But when Kane In Your Corner dug into records of inspections conducted by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, they found something odd. None of the problems that News 12 caught on camera had been reported by state housing inspectors.
Records show inspectors with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs cited the Castle Apartments for 15 violations in January, but about half were in just one apartment. The others were in common areas, or involved issues like failing to post required certificates.
A previous inspection in December turned up four additional violations. But again, all were in a single apartment. And none of the video News 12 obtained of plumbing problems, collapsed ceilings and other significant concerns came from either of the two apartments cited for violations. All were from the other 42 apartments, which inspectors had found to be free of violations. Coleman says when it comes to her ceiling collapse, “I’ve been dealing with issues in that same bathroom since 2018.”
East Orange Mayor Ted Green said he started hearing complaints about conditions at the property about a week after he was elected in 2017. He said the city has done what it can on behalf of tenants, and offered a carefully-worded critique of the state, which he indicated could be doing more.
“Code enforcement, when they call, we are out,” Green says. “We’re going to keep taking them to court, but again, we got to make sure that at the state level, that the penalties (are) much higher, but also working with us to make sure that landlords that think they can come in our city and treat people in a very inhumane way, we’re not tolerating that.”
Lisa Ryan, a spokesperson for the Department of Community Affairs, says the last full inspection of the property was in 2019; over 100 problems were found. She says the most recent inspections came in response to complaints from residents, which is why inspectors focused on those apartments and didn’t necessarily look elsewhere.
If you know of a housing code violation at an apartment complex, you can contact the DCA at 609-633-6227 or BHIInspections@dca.nj.gov.