No air-conditioning, 'no rent'

The heat wave may be over, but some residents of a north Baltimore apartment building are still hot about having no air conditioning for much of the summer.

Now, they want to make management feel the heat.

David Henry, a retired IBM worker, and his wife, Bronwyn Thompson-Henry, a professional fundraiser, are threatening to withhold their August rent at Belvedere Towers, 1190 W. Northern Parkway. They say that the apartment complex at the corner of Falls Road had no air conditioning for at least three weeks, including at the height of the heat wave, and has been sporadic all summer. As recently as Saturday, July 30, the air conditioning wasn't working, Thompson-Henry said.

The 48-year-old building with 234 units and 12 retail units, including Belvedere Towers Cafe, is for sale, and negotiations are ongoing with a potential buyer, said Michael Muldowney, executive vice president of the broker CB Richard Ellis Inc. Muldowney would not say who the buyer is, but said he expected the sale to be completed by the end of the year. He said it would be the second time in the past four or five years that the apartment complex has been sold.

The current owner is Belvedere Towers LLC, which is represented by agent Easley McCaleb Associates Inc., of Fairfax, Va., according to the Baltimore City Property Location office. The building is managed by Morgan Properties, based in King of Prussia, Pa. Morgan Properties also runs The Carlyle and The Marylander in north Baltimore.

Morgan Properties could not be reached for comment.

Nickie Mack, property manager for Belvedere Towers, declined to comment.

"It's an older building," Muldowney said of Belvedere Towers, which was built in 1963. "The current owner has maintained the property as best (the owner) could, given (the building's) age and the financial performance of the property. A change in ownership will probably lead to some improvements."

That's little consolation to the Henrys, who have lived in Belvedere Towers for about two years. With the help of at least one other tenant, they have passed out fliers, referring to the building as "Hellvedere Towers" and urging other tenants to join them in their rent boycott. On Monday, Aug. 1, the due date for rent, Thompson-Henry said, "My phone has blown up this morning," with more than 20 tenants calling to ask if she still intends to go through with the rent boycott.

"I said I was going to do it and I'm going to do it," she said.

They and the resident who helped them hand out fliers, but who would not give his name, also claimed that the building is understaffed and overrun by mice. When the Henrys wrote the flier July 20, it was 96 degrees in their ninth floor, three-bedroom apartment, they said.

They said in the flier that the building's management hasn't fixed the air conditioning despite their repeated complaints.

"We have listened to excuse after excuse, lie after lie, and still we swelter," states the flier, which has their names and phone numbers and their apartment number and urges other residents to contact them.

"We have decided to boycott rent due Aug. 1, 2011," states the flier by the couple.

"It is our hope that you will ask yourself and examine your heart as to what is fair and that you will join us!" states the flier.

"No services! No rent!" it states in capital letters.

Thompson-Henry said she has also encouraged residents to form a "tenants committee," but that many are afraid to get involved in a protest.

Thompson-Henry described the air conditioning service as "on and off" since mid-May and said Belvedere Towers has a central heating and air conditioning system, as opposed to units in each apartment. She said each apartment has its own thermostat.

At one point this summer, the building staff told the Henrys "they were working on the system — flushing it out."

At another point, the management said, "they needed to do something on the roof and that would solve the problem," Thompson-Henry said.

Several days later, "It was off again," she said.

As of last week, she said, "For the moment, its OK."

She said the Henrys pay $1,800 a month for their three-bedroom, two-bath apartment, plus prorated utilities.

"As they prorate me, let me prorate them," she said. "I don't want to pay for services I'm not receiving."

The tenant who helped the Henrys pass out the fliers said that a maintenance man followed them and took the fliers off walls and doors as they were posted. Thompson-Henry told the same story.

The tenant said he has lived in the building for three years, and has experienced other problems, especially mice.

"I have this place so sticky-padded," he said.

He too said the air conditioning was spotty and that an old-fashioned trash disposal system in which tenants toss their garbage down a chute into a bin is "nasty."

"When you get services, it's almost like you're fortunate," the tenant said. "You're not supposed to feel fortunate for something you're paying for."

But the tenant said he still likes some aspects of Belvedere Towers, including reasonable rent and utilities, $75-a-month parking, and renovations, including new washing machines, dryers, stoves and carpeting in the halls.

"It's a nice old building," he said.

The Henrys, who moved from Tuscany-Canterbury, agreed.

"I don't like moving," Thompson-Henry said. "I'm one of those people who has to decorate to death."

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