Linda Vista apartments investigation finds no discrimination, but unfulfilled repair requests

The apartment complex at 1119 Linda Vista Ave. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

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The apartment complex at 1119 Linda Vista Ave. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

A civil rights investigation into companies that formerly owned and managed a problem-ridden apartment complex in northwest Dayton has found no probable cause that they engaged in housing discrimination.

But the investigation found evidence that owner Moonstone Property Investment LLC and property manager BWB Real Estate Management repeatedly were warned about health and safety issues at several of their buildings and yet they failed to respond or take appropriate corrective action, said Jacob Davis, justice and inclusion administrator with Dayton’s Human Relations Council (HRC). Residents eventually fled due to what officials called unsafe conditions.

There is “evidence of their negligence as a housing provider rather than any discriminatory motive or intent,” he said during a recent HRC meeting, where he recommended dismissing the fair housing complaint. “Respondents have a long history of problematic behavior in Dayton at other buildings.”

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Jacob Davis, a civil rights investigator with the Dayton Human Relations Council, gives an update to the HRC board about the apartment property at 1119 Linda Vista Ave. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Jacob Davis, a civil rights investigator with the Dayton Human Relations Council, gives an update to the HRC board about the apartment property at 1119 Linda Vista Ave. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

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Jacob Davis, a civil rights investigator with the Dayton Human Relations Council, gives an update to the HRC board about the apartment property at 1119 Linda Vista Ave. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Elijah Rashaed, a manager with the company that owned the property — two blocks east of the Salem Avenue-Cornell Drive intersection — did not immediately return a call requesting comment.

But he previously said the discrimination complaints were baseless, the apartment property was in decent shape, and ownership and management appropriately responded to complaints and repair and maintenance requests.

A company that now manages the property says the owner has spent tens of thousands of dollars upgrading the apartment building and went to great lengths to help residents who wanted to move or who were frustrated with their living situation and previous ownership.

A representative with the company also said some information about what happened at the property shared by city leaders, community members and some tenants was not correct.

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Apartments at 1119 Linda Vista Ave. in northwest Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Apartments at 1119 Linda Vista Ave. in northwest Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

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Apartments at 1119 Linda Vista Ave. in northwest Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

At a recent meeting, the Dayton Human Relations Council’s Board of Directors unanimously voted to dismiss a fair housing discrimination complaint it had initiated seven months ago against Moonstone Investment LLC and BWB Real Estate Management.

The HRC board last year dismissed two other fair housing complaints filed against the companies by tenants of their former apartment property, located at 1119 Linda Vista Ave.

The fair housing investigations found no probable cause that discrimination had taken place.

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A map showing 1119 Linda Vista Ave. CONTRIBUTED

A map showing 1119 Linda Vista Ave. CONTRIBUTED

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A map showing 1119 Linda Vista Ave. CONTRIBUTED

Davis, Dayton’s lead civil rights investigator, looked into whether Moonstone and BWB treated renters at the Linda Vista Ave. apartments differently than they did tenants at another property they owned and managed on Radio Road in east Dayton.

About 80% to 90% of the residents at the Linda Vista property were Black, while renters at the 1721 Radio Road property traditionally have been white, said Davis, who said he investigated whether there was disparate treatment at the properties due to race or disability.

The housing discrimination complaint was initiated in late spring, shortly after city staff and elected leaders said they learned about what they described as horrible conditions at the 1119 Linda Vista Ave. property.

Residents and city officials said the lower level of the building flooded with possible wastewater, and some tenants reported feeling ill. Current property managers said it was just muddywater that pooled because of a drain problem.

Some tenants and city leaders said some lights and utilities were turned off in the apartment building. Some residents also complained about problems with trash, roach and rodent infestations, mold and other unfulfilled maintenance and repair requests.

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Michelle Libecap, with her 14-month-old daughter, outside of the apartments at 1119 Linda Vista Ave.

Michelle Libecap, with her 14-month-old daughter, outside of the apartments at 1119 Linda Vista Ave.

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Michelle Libecap, with her 14-month-old daughter, outside of the apartments at 1119 Linda Vista Ave.

In late May, the city and St. Vincent de Paul took the unusual step of offering tenants temporary housing at a local hotel as officials said safety concerns and housing code issues were addressed.

Attorneys and representatives for Moonstone and BWB have long said that there were not major issues at the apartment building when they sold and transferred it to a new owner, Linda Vista Apartments LLC.

They claimed any issues that occurred happened after they relinquished ownership.

Rashaed previously said Moonstone made sizable investments in the Linda Vista apartments to make them livable and decent, and he said tenants’ requests and complaints were addressed in a timely fashion.

Davis, however, said his investigation found that Moonstone and BWB often failed to provide maintenance services in a timely manner and repairs that were made often were done by unqualified individuals.

Residents who lived at the Linda Vista apartments and the Radio Road units both faced similar challenges to getting basic repairs completed, regardless of whether they were Black or white, disabled or nondisabled, Davis said.

Multiple residents who were interviewed complained about fire hazards, a lack of smoke detectors, issues with trash and debris removal and rodent infestations, Davis said.

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Elijah M. Rashaed, in blue, leaves Dayton Municipal Court in 2021. He appeared on behalf of Moonstone Investments LLC, which had a housing case dismissed after issues at a Salem Avenue apartment property were abated. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Elijah M. Rashaed, in blue, leaves Dayton Municipal Court in 2021. He appeared on behalf of Moonstone Investments LLC, which had a housing case dismissed after issues at a Salem Avenue apartment property were abated. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

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Elijah M. Rashaed, in blue, leaves Dayton Municipal Court in 2021. He appeared on behalf of Moonstone Investments LLC, which had a housing case dismissed after issues at a Salem Avenue apartment property were abated. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

First Realty Group Inc., the new property management company for 1119 Linda Vista Ave., worked closely and extensively with the HRC, city housing authorities, code enforcement, the fire marshal and public health officials to bring the property up to code, said Rodney Litteral, president and broker with First Realty Group Inc.

There were no issues at the property that warranted it being vacated, he said, but the owner still decided to pay for significant upgrades, including wired smoke detectors, new steel commercial service doors, fire extinguishers, new LED lighting and fresh paint in the common areas.

Litteral said his group, which is a licensed real estate agency and property manager, is working to update units with new furnishings, lighting, flooring and fresh paint, and new landscaping is planned for the spring of 2022.

“The owner has invested over $75,000 for code upgrades which would not have been necessary under normal transfer of ownership, and a full property inspection was completed as part of the sale, at the property before ownership transfer and this report showed no issues that would make the property uninhabitable,” he said. “Only a small list of minor repairs were documented on the report.”

But Litteral said the owner and his agency still decided to help relocate more than 10 families to other housing, offered families assistance moving, returned deposits and waived one to two months rent for families, due to the frustrations they experienced with prior owners and managers.

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The apartments at 1119 Linda Vista Ave. in northwest Dayton last summer. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The apartments at 1119 Linda Vista Ave. in northwest Dayton last summer. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

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The apartments at 1119 Linda Vista Ave. in northwest Dayton last summer. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

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