At a rally organized by Baltimore Renters United on Wednesday, residents in three Reservoir Hill buildings said their landlord has failed to address broken elevators, pest infestations and other housing problems.
A crowd of about 30 people, including immigrant and refugee families and older and disabled tenants, gathered outside Temple Gardens Apartments despite an afternoon downpour.
Tenant Cynthia Murphy said the building’s elevators were not maintained in accordance with state law and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“They go down sometimes weekly, biweekly, and it takes so long for them to get fixed,” Murphy said. “This is unacceptable. Many of our residents cannot walk up the stairs. They are disabled.”
Anthony Worley Sr., who uses a wheelchair and lives on the 10th floor of Temple Gardens, said elevators were broken for weeks at a time, making it hard to make it to his doctor’s appointments.
“The elevator is always broke,” Worley said. “We need our elevators so we can get in and out of our building.”
Tenants from Emersonian Apartments and the Esplanade, both on Eutaw Place, joined the protest. All three buildings were elegant residences in the early 20th century, a symbol of old Reservoir Hill grandeur.
Ellena Prince, a resident of the Emersonian, said she has lived in the Eutaw Place building since 2007 but thatshe saw a sharp drop-off in property management quality in the past few years. “They’re still not addressing our issues,” Prince said.
The company that owns the apartment buildings is Pennsylvania-based Roizman & Associates, according to property records.
Israel Roizman, a co-general partner of Roizman & Associates, said Thursday that the owners plan to fully renovate the buildings soon, including replacing the elevators.
Roizman said the owners have addressed tenants’ concerns, including taking care of the elevators. “We are spending a ton of money,” he said. “We have exterminators on a monthly basis, and if we need to bring them again, we will.”
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Murphy said in an interview that the tenants had heard nothing from the buildings’ owners, despite sending certified letters listing their complaints. “These are slumlords,” she said.
Roizman said he never received the letters that tenants say they mailed to his business address.
A few children took the microphone to say that their families were struggling to pay rising rents. One man, a refugee from Afghanistan who asked not to be identified out of fear for his family’s safety, showed a reporter a video of wriggling white insects on his carpet and said the mice in this unit frightened his kids.
Baltimore Renters United organizer Indigo Hull said other tenants had complained of severe mice and cockroach problems, exacerbated by overfilling trash rooms. Hull also described a tenant with a leaking hole in his roof that led to mold growth.
“Where is Baltimore City enforcement?” Hull said. “This has gone on for too long and too many buildings in the city are putting up with these conditions.”
The Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development has received 47,568 sanitary-related service requests this year across the city, according to spokesman Kevin Nash. Nash wrote in an email that city staff responded to and closed requests within three days on average. He said broken elevators do not fall under the department’s jurisdiction.
Organizers blamed city inspectors and the Department of Housing and Community Development for failing to enforce code provisions. Chanting “Housing is a human right, fight, fight, fight,” protesters called for the city to do more to force landlords to address renters’ complaints.
This article has been updated to correct the location of Emersonian Apartments and the Esplanade. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.