Tenants rally against poor maintenance

‘Housing is a human right! That is why we stand and fight’

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 9/7/2023, 6 p.m.
Patrick Saddon is supposed to have central air conditioning in his Chamberlayne Avenue apartment. But for the past two years, ...
Patrick Saddon and others at Monday rally against conditions at Red Oak apartments. The rally, attended by several residents, took place on a vacant lot in 3600 block of Chamberlayne Avenue. Photos by Jeremy M. Lazarus/Richmond Free Press

Patrick Saddon is supposed to have central air conditioning in his Chamberlayne Avenue apartment.

But for the past two years, Mr. Saddon said his air conditioning unit hasn’t worked. He said that he has received visits from maintenance staff, but nothing changes.

“They slapped a window air conditioner in my bedroom, but it doesn’t cool the rest of the apartment,” said the frustrated 74-year-old, who has lived in the same unit in the 3800 block of Chamberlayne Avenue for 13 years.

“They (apartment management) always have a different excuse,” he said as to what needs to be done to get the system to work.

Mr. Saddon

Mr. Saddon

Mr. Saddon’s not alone in being dissatisfied with the operation and maintenance of 24 buildings and hundreds of units along Chamberlayne Avenue that currently are labeled Red Oak Apartments.

On Monday, Mr. Saddon participated in a rally organized by the Richmond Tenants’ Defense Council and its affiliate, the Chamberlayne Tenants Council, and the Richmond Tenants Union to call attention to the problems they have to endure.

The Red Oak management staff did not respond to a Free Press request for comment.

Chantay Williams, 62, who lives in another nearby Red Oak unit, said she and others cannot get monthly statements and also appear to be overcharged for water and sewer service, which is not included in the rent.

She and her husband, Bernest, have waited more than a year to get small repairs done in their apartment where they have lived for six years.

“You call and call and no one responds,” she said.

Such issues have attracted the attention of the Richmond Branch NAACP. President James E. “J.J.” Minor III said the organization will use its influence to help tenants get what they deserve — an apartment where everything works and that is well maintained.

“We don’t want the Red Oak to change to poison oak,” said Mr. Minor, a city employee. “Tenants deserve better.” He promised that the branch would begin pressing the city to look into the situation and hold the owners responsible.

These have long been troubled apartments when it comes to maintenance. Six years ago, reports began pouring in about major defects. The city’s inspectors spent a year trying to get the previous owners, Cedar Grove Partners LLC of New York, to address significant problems.

The city condemned 12 of the buildings and won court support to force Cedar Grove to sell.

Ginter Park LLC is the new owner. Like Cedar Grove, the Ginter Park owners are secretive. LLC stands for limited liability company, which by state law does not have to disclose the individual investors.

The volunteer Tenant’s Defense Council hopes that by organizing, the tenants will begin placing their rent in escrow at the court and get a hearing.

The rally closed with the assemblage chanting, “Tenant power is on the rise, now’s the time to organize! We got power — shut it down; we got power, and “Housing is a human right! That is why we stand and fight.”