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Owner of two Indianapolis apartment complexes faces call for federal investigation

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The owner of two Indianapolis apartment complexes faces a possible federal investigation, as court cases pile up and some tenants say they went weeks without heat.

CBS4 Problem Solvers has been looking into the Missouri-based owner, TEH Realty, for months because of complaints at both Addison Creek and Lexington Park apartments. The Marion County Health Department has filed 28 court cases in the last six months at Addison Creek, including six filed in mid-November for broken heating systems.

The heat in half of Racheal Strong's four-bedroom apartment wasn't working when CBS4 Problem Solvers visited in November. She showed us a space heater she said management had dropped off, but said it was only working intermittently.

"I'm trying to make myself feel comfortable, but it does not work," Strong said.

Inspectors had not taken Strong's case to court. Health department staff tell CBS4 Problem Solvers they only go to court after they've given a landlord time to fix an issue. Health department data shows that in the past two years, inspectors have issued repair orders at Addison Creek more than 200 times.

One court case originated in Alvenia Smith's apartment. Smith faced eviction after managers said they couldn't make repairs while she was living there.

"I’m not satisfied with this place. I could go outside right now and point out 10 apartments that are abandoned," Smith said.

Smith got a lawyer and won her case. She has since moved out.

TEH Realty, based in Kansas City, bought Addison Creek two years ago, in December 2017. Six months later, the company bought Lexington Park apartments on the east side. Tenants there have also complained about repairs that were not made without the health department's help.

CBS4 Problem Solvers' newsgathering partners in Kansas City and St. Louis have been reporting about TEH Realty, too. In both cities, local housing authorities have halted Section 8 payments at some properties.

Last month, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley toured an apartment complex in St. Louis, where he called on federal housing officials to investigate the company.

"This landlord is clearly violating the terms of their contract. They’re taking these tenants money, they’ve taken federal money in the past, that’s why there needs to be a federal investigation," Hawley said.

CBS4 Problem Solvers has left dozens of messages for TEH Realty since August. Letters recently sent to two company offices, asking for comment, were not returned and managers at Addison Creek and Lexington Park have repeatedly refused to talk.

TEH Realty is still getting taxpayer money in Indianapolis, in the form of Section 8 voucher payments. According to data provided by the Indianapolis Housing Agency, or IHA, payments totaling around $60,000 have been made in 2019. IHA Executive Director John Hall said vouchers at the properties have decreased significantly, down to only nine total. One of those nine has been canceled and the tenant is being relocated, due to a failed abatement of conditions in the apartment, according to Hall.

In both Strong and Smith's cases at Addison Creek, health department data shows that inspectors issued repair orders long before the women moved in. Last year, the health department took management to court for more than a dozen violations in the apartment where Strong was living.

"I was hoping maybe like, if they get so many complaints they’d be like, 'Okay, we need to do something, it’s time we help these people,'" Strong said.

The health department recently filed to dismiss six of its court cases, including four where the heat has been fixed at Addison Creek. That leaves nine open court cases that should be decided in early 2020.

If you have a problem you'd like CBS4 Problem Solvers to consider, contact us at 317-677-1544 or ProblemSolvers@cbs4indy.com.

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