Officials pay surprise visit to check out tenant woes


Darlene Tuck said she complained to management after moving into Liberty Crossing Apartments in Randallstown three years ago and finding a faulty air conditioner, cracked floors, broken doors and mice running rampant. Nothing happened, she said, but she kept trying.

In response to her complaints and those of other residents, a group of county officials paid a surprise visit yesterday to the development, which is Section 8 housing for low-income families near Liberty Road.

The contingent included Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden, fire, police and health officials. They walked around the complex to inspect buildings and living conditions and to listen to complaints.

Ms. Tuck, 41, a former practical nurse who started a community association at Liberty Crossing, said she finally asked for the county's help after receiving a letter from management two weeks ago saying her lease wasn't being renewed.

Continental Realty, owner of the complex, was notified at 4 p.m. Thursday that officials would be visiting. Residents reported seeing 20 to 25 workers cleaning up before the group arrived.

What officials found were nicely cut lawns and pruned bushes on the outside, while residents pointed to numerous problems inside. Officials from the Department of Community Development said they expect to write a number of citations for holes in walls, loose handrails, chipped paint, worn-out rugs, hazardous furnace areas and damaged ceilings.

Ronald Carr, vice president of Continental Realty, said the visit was unnecessary and he has been trying to renovate the property since his group took it over last December. Mr. Carr accompanied the county officials on their tour and found himself under fire most of the two hours from residents who wanted to know why two swimming pools were closed and complained about playgrounds too unsafe to use.

"These places run [up to] $725 for a three-bedroom apartment," Ms. Tuck said. "For that amount of money -- whether you receive your funds from Section 8 or pay that amount yourself -- you surely shouldn't have mice running out of the stove . . . and people sleeping in the hallways."

Residents also complained to police about drug users and gunfire in the neighborhood.

Some of the structural problems were fixed as the officials came across them. For instance, an air conditioner with a missing steel grating and exposed wires and fan blades was repaired soon after Mr. Hayden suggested that "someone could lose a hand or a finger." A railing was taken down after several officials shook it for sturdiness.

"The prior management did not take care of the people here and now they're fed up and tired of dealing with management," said Mr. Carr. Mr. Carr said his group has made many improvements to hallways and carpeting. He also said one of three swimming pools has been repaired and all three playgrounds are being renovated.

One resident, Tammatha Woodhouse, 24, who has lived there 10 months, was sympathetic to management.

"It's a partnership," Ms. Woodhouse said. "Everybody needs to take a minute or two to make it better for everyone by picking up trash, cleaning up hallways or keeping your own apartment clean. Management can't do it alone."

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