The Human Relations Council (HRC) board filed a complaint that will look at potential disparities between the apartment building and another belonging to the same owner in East Dayton.
HRC staff also collected informal complaints from a dozen residents, and at least a few are expected to lead to civil rights investigations.
Some HRC board members say the city needs a way to ensure housing meets basic living standards.
“We know this is happening in many other places around the city,” said Paul Bradley, chair of the HRC board. “It shouldn’t take this kind of disaster... for people to get help.”
The HRC board on Monday voted in favor of initiating a race discrimination complaint against Moonstone Property Investments LLC, which owned the 1119 Linda Vista Ave. apartment building in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, auditor records say.
An attorney who has represented Moonstone in Dayton Municipal Court proceedings did not immediately return a request for comment Monday afternoon.
Multiple city officials and people with knowledge of the property say the apartment building was recently sold to a new buyer.
But Moonstone Investments and Moonstone Property Investment have owned the property since July 2018, and residents in the building say their problems with mold, pests, damaged and non-working electrical and mechanical systems and unanswered requests for repairs date back years.
The Moonstone companies have ties to a man who has been described as a “notorious landlord” by Milwaukee news reports, according to this newspaper’s review of real estate and court records.
The HRC board can file a complaint if it has a reasonable belief that tenants at the Linda Vista Avenue property are being treated differently than residents of another Moonstone property in East Dayton because of their race or the racial compositions of the neighborhoods, said Jacob Davis, the HRC’s senior civil rights investigator.
Moonstone Property Investments also owns a multi-family property at 1721 Radio Road in East Dayton, auditor’s records say.
Davis said that property is in much better shape than the Linda Visa Avenue property, and it has not faced a legal order since 2018.
HRC staff will investigate the complaint and report their findings back to board members, officials said.
Officials said the initial complaint includes Moonstone Property Investment LLC but that could be amended if it turns out they use the same property management company for both properties.
The HRC received 12 informal complaints from residents of the Linda Vista Avenue apartment building, which allowed the organization to conduct a preliminary investigation into the housing provider, Davis said.
Davis reviewed the complaints and determined seven were landlord-tenant disputes.
About 10 of the complaints may be referred to other city departments or outside agencies.
One resident signed a discrimination complaint against Moonstone and the property management company alleging inequitable rental costs and fees.
Another resident is considering signing a complaint based on disability alleging she and her child were exposed to mold, exacerbating underlying health conditions.
Other tenants complained about mold, illness from mold exposure, pest infestations, potential fire hazards and unsafe and unsanitary living environments.
Residents of the Linda Vista apartments have moved back into the apartments even though they still have issues with pests, like rats and roaches, and non-functioning stoves and appliances, said Daj’za Demmings, a member of the HRC board.
“They may be back home, but their condition isn’t better at all,” she said. “It’s very confusing and it’s a very frustrating situation.”
Demmings said Dayton needs to guarantee that housing meets some basic living standards.
She said she thinks there are many properties with awful conditions like this in the city.
“It’s basic human rights,” she said.
This is an equity issue, said Cady Landa, a member of the HRC board.
“It shouldn’t be that a group of people over here have this completely substandard living situation, and then you take a walk downtown and people are paying thousands of dollars in rent for these beautiful places,” she said. “It’s not right.”
Landa said she would be in favor of developing legislation focused on ensuring basic living standards.