‘Glad it’s over’: Judge gives final approval on settlement against Charlotte apartment complex over unsafe conditions

Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 11:46 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A judge signed an order for final approval of a more than half-million-dollar settlement over unsafe conditions Tuesday morning, ending a years-long battle.

“I feel good that it’s over. I was exhausted but glad it’s over,” said Serita Russell, former Lake Arbor tenant and plaintiff.

Russell described the conditions inside the Lake Arbor Apartments on Tuckaseegee Road.

“Mold in our apartments, leaking ceilings, electrical wiring issues, no air conditioner, no heat, plumbing was a problem, some of the structure, ceilings falling in,” she said.

Those unsafe conditions, including rodents, plagued the complex for years.

“It wasn’t pleasant at all. I have health issues and living in apartments with mold, plumbing issues, just the smell of it was ridiculous,” Russell said.

There were complaints but nothing was done.

Charlotte code inspectors also found numerous violations.

Eventually, residents were evicted in July 2019 due to renovation plans, and outrage grew from the community and city leaders.

Last December, a settlement of $547,500 was reached for 106 people and Tuesday, a judge signed off and gave the final approval.

Each person part of the settlement will receive the sum of 1.8 times the total amount of rent or fees paid during the violations. Settlement checks are expected to be sent in within the next two months.

“You can’t rent out premises that don’t pass code inspections, and if you do rent them out and you get caught doing it and somebody has the nerve to bring a lawsuit against you, you’re going to have to pay a substantial amount of money for violating the law,” said attorney Julian Wright with Robinson Bradshaw law firm.

Russell said she turned this experience into helping others.

“I hope that communities around the city, state and other places will see that there is the possibility to win and fight against landlords, slumlords as we call them,” she said.

Russell said if anyone needs assistance with a similar situation to call the tenant organization hotline at 980-443-3715.

The class-action lawsuit was brought by Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, North Carolina Justice Center and Robinson Bradshaw.

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