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Tenants of condemned city apartments want justice, feel ‘ripped off’

RICHMOND, Va. – The owner of a troubled apartment complex in Northside did not appear in court Tuesday, instead sending his attorney to argue that his subpoena should be thrown out over questions of whether it was properly served.

On Tuesday, former tenants waited around and filled the courtroom, hoping to see some type of justice after their homes were condemned.

Aaron Gorin owns the New-York based Cedar Grove Partners LLC, which moved into the Richmond market in late August 2015. Cedar Grove first purchased 12 apartment buildings along Chamberlayne Avenue.

Gorin was taken to court by the City of Richmond after many apartments at The Flats at Ginter Park, a sprawling 4.5-acre Northside apartment complex built in the 1940s, were condemned.

He also owns nearby properties that were condemned. Most of the buildings flank Chamberlayne Avenue and Old Brook Road, and some are sprinkled through Ginter Park. Though some buildings are in different locations, they are under the same ownership.

At least 12 buildings and 44 units have been condemned, with more placarded; the process used by the city to flag unfit or unsafe properties. At the time the city began shuttering the apartments, John Walsh, Richmond Code Enforcement Operations Manager, said it was of the bigger projects the city had undertaken.

Numerous and varying issues led to the condemnation, according to Property Maintenance Enforcement Inspector Andre Smith.

The exterior and interior of many buildings were deemed unsafe, due to a lack of maintenance; structural members (roof to ceilings/floor to walls or columns) were compromised and could collapse; there were defective surfaces throughout the property.

The electrical, plumbing, HVAC, were all in significant disrepair, according to city inspectors. In addition to water leaking, there were uncapped sewer lines, rodents and an accumulation of refuse in units, crawl spaces and basements.

On Tuesday, former tenants waited around and filled the courtroom.

James Mallory said he went from paying his rent on time to waiting for his mail on the stoop of his old complex, after he the city condemned his building and he was forced to relocate.

In some cases, people found out they had to relocate with just one days’ notice. Walsh maintains that they gave the required seven to 10 days’ notice to the management company, but they did not notify tenants.

“If a female got five kids, babies, no hot water why you gone tell them they gotta leave in 30 days -- they left but where they going --they going out on Broad and sleeping on the streets,” Mallory said.

Former property manager Brad Humphreys did show up to court Tuesday, and was dismissed from the case because he no longer works for The Flats at Ginter Park. He was charged with a dozen counts of failure to make necessary repairs to buildings, and 10 counts of unsafe structures.

The Flats are under new management, a representative with Greenbriar management said they took over about three weeks ago.

“Legal loopholes and details that don’t fix major problems,” said Mallory, who added that the owner Gorin needs to be held accountable.

“It`s just not right, you ripped us off,” Mallory said.

Though nothing was resolved in court today, sources said all of this is far from over.