EVERETT — Steve Teixeira is almost ready to leave the Grand Apartments. Life is still a nightmare, he said, and it’s time to move on.
Dimension Townhouses, a Renton-based real estate company, never stopped trying to bully tenants out of the building, Teixeira said. Older, disabled tenants are gone.
“They’re only renting to young, white, able-bodied people,” Teixeira said. “I’m not seeing any disabled people, any older people, no people of color. That really bothers me.”
Dimension Townhouses also operates under the names “Dimension Properties” and “Dimension Property Management.” It bought the three-story apartment building last summer, when the former owner was ready to retire. In October, residents described life with their corporate landlord as “a nightmare of epic proportions.”
Dimension did not respond to a Herald reporter’s request for comment for this story.
Teixeira is one of the last of the original tenants, but he’s leaving soon. He has spent the past seven months working with an attorney from the Northwest Justice Project and doesn’t want to fight Dimension anymore.
Mark Wiggen, 58, is also leaving. Wiggen learned a couple weeks ago that Dimension is increasing his rent to $1,300. He relies on Social Security Disability payments and can’t afford the increase.
“I’m just going to a room, but I’ll have full use of the apartment,” Wiggen said. “I would like to have my own place, but I’m not going to for a little bit. The options around here for someone on Disability are limited.”
‘As long as they do the bare minimum’
In the past year, Dimension left tenants without a working fire alarm system, turned off their water without notice and threatened them, according to residents who spoke with The Daily Herald. Tenants have reported issues to city and state agencies, but the company hasn’t faced many consequences.
Teixeira said Dimension has turned off his water without notice “too many times to count” since October and that tenants are “almost constantly” without hot water.
The ceiling of Teixeira’s apartment had a slight leak last summer, but it has grown progressively worse. Water drips every time someone showers. In February, the entire bathroom floor got soaked.
In December, Teixeira filed a complaint with Adult Protective Services. Dimension had removed two tenants’ names from their utility accounts, causing them to lose power and heat, Teixeira said. Both tenants were older adults or disabled.
In the past month, new tenants have started renting the apartments. Oisin Thompson said he has seen the issues Teixeira described, but wasn’t affected by most of them. Thompson recently accepted a job in Everett. Before he moved to the Grand Apartments, he spent three months at an Airbnb in Lake Stevens.
The Grand Apartments have received some cosmetic upgrades since October. It has chic, renovated apartments with trendy floors, fresh paint and new appliances. They rent for up to $1,325.
“It was a decent location,” Thompson said of his decision to move to the Grand. “It was reasonably priced and it was the right size. There aren’t tons of options out there. I will give them some credit, it’s nice inside the actual apartment.”
Thompson said Dimension has notified him before shutting off the water. The ceiling in his apartment hasn’t leaked. The biggest issue is that the building runs out of hot water, Thompson said, and it’s gotten worse over the past two weeks. He also had to install his own WiFi.
“For me, I don’t have any real regrets,” Thompson said. “Overall, it’s nice. The WiFi thing was annoying, but as long as they do the bare minimum, I’ll be fine.”
‘Our investigations are ongoing’
It doesn’t appear that the City of Everett has fined Dimension, even though the city Fire Marshal’s Office found the company violated fire codes last year. Earlier this month, a city code enforcement team also found Dimension worked on the building without permits.
“Our investigations are ongoing,” Everett spokesperson Kimberley Cline said via email. “We plan on working with the owners to rectify any issues found.”
City records show the fire department responded to four false alarms before it inspected the property in September. The inspector found nine fire code violations, including that the building’s alarm system was past due for an inspection, the building lacked illuminated exit signs and the fire extinguishers hadn’t been serviced by a licensed contractor. The most recent safety inspection was in October, Cline said.
The fire marshal found the alarm system was “operable,” but “some fire extinguishers needed servicing.” The fire department responded to another false alarm in December, according to records from the city.
In April, Teixeira called 911 about another alarm issue.
“I heard this piercing sound,” Teixeira said. “Sure enough, a warning tone was going off and I’m like, ‘Oh, darn, alarm is going off again.’ It was nighttime, I opened up my door and it was pitch black in the hallway.”
Thompson said all the hall lights were off when he got home and the fire marshal was already at the building. The incident report said the alarm system was “reporting trouble but not alarming” and there were “no lights in hallway.”
“(Engine 2) investigates and finds partially completed hot water system work, with several breakers turned off,” according to the incident report. “One is ‘fire alarm.’ When it is turned back on, fire alarm system returns to normal. E2 advised resident to talk to apartment owner before flipping any other breakers, as there were open, uncapped wires in the laundry room.”
The city doesn’t issue fines for fire code violations, Cline said. It charges “inspection fees.”
The fire safety inspection fee is $5 per unit for multi-family buildings like the Grand Apartments, plus a fee for “substantial common areas.” The maximum fee for common areas is $352.
The fire department doesn’t charge building owners for the first three responses to preventable false fire alarms. The fourth response, and additional responses, are $308 each.
Cline said the city’s Code Enforcement Unit, which deals with other safety issues and dangerous buildings, didn’t receive a complaint until earlier this month. A code officer inspected the building May 6 and found there had been “recent work on the water-heating system without permits,” Cline said.
The city sent Dimension notice to comply on Monday. Cline said the city has options if Dimension ignores the letter, but the most likely is for the city’s hearing examiner to determine how the city responds. The hearing examiner has the authority to issue fines.
The Everett Tenants Union
In October, Teixeira wanted to fight more than his eviction notice. He felt his neighbors were in danger and that Dimension was intentionally pushing out disabled tenants.
Most of the Grand Apartments’ original tenants met with an attorney from the Northwest Justice Project. In the end, though, they decided remaining at the Grand wasn’t worth the fight. Teixeira, the last tenant, is done fighting Dimension too, he said.
He hopes a new group he’s starting, the Everett Tenants Union, will help renters who find themselves in similar situations. The online community is for tenants to share information and resources, Teixeira said. It’s in the early stages, but he hopes it will also be a platform for Everett tenants to discuss changes they want to see.
Teixeira’s first priorities? More code enforcement and harsher penalties.
“They have a right to make money,” Teixeira said. “I get that. But not at the expense of people being safe.”
Katie Hayes: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @misskatiehayes.
Katie Hayes is a Report for America corps member and writes about issues that affect the working class for The Daily Herald.
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