After months of complaints from residents, Shiloh officials promised to “keep a close eye” on an apartment building after a property management group addressed code violations.
Since May, residents of the apartment complex at 2 Yorkshire Lane, across the street from Yorktown Golf Course, have compiled a long list of grievances, including overflowing trash, sewage backups, mold, structural disrepair and over head light fixtures not working.
But it wasn’t until beginning of August that the issues were fully remedied, according to Mike Campbell, Shiloh Code Enforcement officer.
“So that means they can have approved occupancies here after the inside has been inspected and approved,” Campbell said
“I’ve been here for over four years, and since Dandell took over maintenance of the building, it’s just been non-stop problems,” said Roger Ivy, who lives on the second floor.
According to St. Clair County property records, the two-level apartment building is owned by Kirby Holding Group LLC, which is based in St. Charles, Mo., but is managed by Belleville-based Dandell Property Management.
Campbell sent a letter to the building owner and property manager stating the property was in violation of village ordinances, “concerning allowing a structure to fall into a state of disrepair.”
The letter stated the “violations must be abated within five days of receipt of this notice. Failure to abate this matter will result in the village taking action to remedy this matter, subjecting the property to liens and yourself to citations that could lead to fines and other penalties.”
Issues cited in the letter and attached photographs included: the non-working main light between parking lot and building; various areas of structure disrepair like detached banisters, broken railing beams and wooden eaves rotting; pipes not connected properly; and, continuous backup of sewage in the basement.
The basement is not used by tenants, has no door and is accessible through a gate at the top of a concrete staircase adjacent to multiple main floor apartments, which Campbell still wants Dandell to put a lock on it to prevent people from accessing the area in the future.
Campbell prefaced the letter stating, “no future occupancy permits will be issued until such time that all items have been correctly repaired...”
But that’s changed no, as well as no citations have been issued, according to Campbell.
“I’ve issued many warnings like this to property managers and private residents, but I’ve never issued a citation,” said Campbell, who has been in his position for four years.
In addition to the sewage odor, Shaquile Reed, a resident on the first floor, said that overflowing trash in the dumpster and the other structural disrepair issues have been a problem consistently since moving in nearly three years ago.
According to a Freedom of Information Act request by the O’Fallon Progress, Reed’s husband Warren Ivory reported the issue to the village in May.
“There’s just so much stuff that adds up that makes you just not want to pay your bill (rent),” Reed said. “It’s like they move on their time.”
Now, Campbell makes daily visits to the property to monitor the situation and “keep residents safe.”
“Most of the issues have been addressed,” Campbell said. “Now the light is working finally, and even though the sewer kept backing up, then they would clean it up, but it would happen again, although since last week it seems to have been permanently addressed now, so that’s good.”
Stench of standing sewage, light issue
When a reporter visited the complex on July 11, stench coming from standing sewage water from the basement of Shiloh apartments was noticeable from the parking lot, and became overpowering closer to the building.
“I’m embarrassed to have people come over or anything because of the smell. The smell seeps through my bottom floors,” said Reed.
Henry Griffin, another tenant, echoed similar concerns about the “awful fumes” from the standing sewage. He also had safety concerns considering the main complex light was not working and the handrail to the upstairs apartments had been falling over for more than a month.
“I’m just bewildered at how bad it has been here. I call and ask them to fix the problems, but it just seems to fall on deaf ears,” Griffin said. “When you pay your rent on time, you expect certain things to be handled. No one should have to live like this.”
Griffin leaves early in the morning for work daily, and said when the light pole was not working he was using a flashlight to see where he was walking from his first floor apartment to the parking lot.
“It was dangerous. People needed to be able to see. I mean what if someone had been hurt,” Griffin said.
Which is exactly why Campbell took the complaints seriously — to keep Shiloh residents safe.
Following tenant complaints to Shiloh officials, Campbell said he issued an official warning July 12 for what were deemed as multiple village code violations. The village told Missouri-based owners and Dandell to fix the issues or citations would follow, Campbell said.
“My primary concern and the village’s is to ensure a safe living environment for our residents, and the issues here were not taken lightly,” Campbell said.
Campbell said his plan is to “keep coming back daily, then weekly, then every two weeks and so on until I know the problems don’t return.”
Belleville’s JD Sewer & Sons started work to repair the backed-up sewer line on July 16. The next day, the air smelled strongly of bleach, but by the 18th, standing sewage water returned, and so did the “rotten smell,” said Ivy.
“I just want to be able to come home or sit in my apartment and not have to put up with a smell like something is decaying,” Ivy said.
On July 20, Campbell, said the basement was drying up again, and there was no new evidence of sewage backup.
“It smells like cleaner now,” said Shaquile Reed.
“We fixed everything that the village wanted us to fix, and it’s all been taken care,” David Fulton’s, Dandell property manager said on the 20th.
But by July 23, the sewage back up returned, according to Campbell and residents.
Campbell said he had given Dandell “multiple verbal and email warnings to address issues” in recent months.
“I was told they’re addressing the issues, but maybe not as speedily as they should or the tenants would like,” said Campbell.
But, after returning to the building July 12, the standing sewage and new structural issues were the final straw.
That’s when Campbell graduated his warnings from phone calls and emails to an official certified mail letter to the owner and property managers.
“These notices are standard protocol to scare people,” Campbell said.
Campbell said while the property owner still has not responded to the July 12 letter, Dandell did carry out repairs, but it took longer than five days.
Ivy said he’s glad the village has intervened.
Tucker Kennedy, of Ameren, said the exterior light was replaced on July 23 to provide overhead lighting at night for residents walking from their apartment to the parking lot.
Jason Belt, of Republic Services waste disposal and trash pickup company, said the reason for the trash not being removed for a couple of weeks in July from the apartment building dumpster was that “it was so overloaded and we couldn’t safely remove the trash.”
According to Belt, Dandell has had “a lot of overages” with their current once weekly trash pick up, which costs about $30 for every overage charge.
“It’s a warning sign to them to increase service instead of paying penalties,” Belt noted.
“We are reaching out to Dandell to increase services, meaning either adding another pick up day or another dumpster,” said Belt, who noted that the service was for pick ups once weekly as determined by the property manager.
By early August, the service has been increased to twice weekly pick ups.
Mold presence is a landlord-tenant issue
Campbell said that he is not a trained to test mold, and unless it’s for an occupancy inspection he doesn’t go into residences to inspect mold or other complaints, but he did say he passed along to Dandell the concern of interior mold growth in Ivy’s apartment.
Dave Fulton, Dandell manager, said he was “unaware” of the alleged mold concern in Ivy’s apartment, but is “working with the village and Republic Services,” waste removal and pick up company servicing the area, to remedy the issues of sewer back up and the dumpster overflow.
“Mr. Ivy is behind on rent, and I’m in the process of eviction,” said Fulton, who noted Ivy has been late in the past but caught up last month.
Ivy said $410 rent is due on the first of each month, and a five-day rent demand letter was taped to his door on July 11.
“I paid it, but I am trying to find somewhere else to live now, because I’ve completely lost faith in my landlord,” Ivy said. “Dave is a slumlord, he cares about getting his money and not the welfare of his tenants or the environment we live in.”
Ivy said he is currently seeking medical treatment for symptoms that he claims are related to mold in his apartment and the fumes from the sewage back up.
“I’m in my thirties, and not an unhealthy guy, but I get nose bleeds, headaches, and I don’t breath right since all this has been getting worse. My fiance even says I seem to breathe better when I’m not there,” Ivy said.
Ivy reported the issue to St. Clair County Health Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Sharon Valentine, director of St. Clair County Health Department’s Environmental Services, said potential mold found in an apartment or a private residence is a landlord-tenant issue, because “the county has no jurisdiction inside those municipal limits.”
“They would need to apply tenant rights and work with the village of Shiloh and the landlord, because they are the ones who have authority to provide enforcement,” Valentine said.
“There’s just no guidance or limits on what’s an acceptable level of mold in a residence, no standards, so essentially each landlord or property owner has to determine that for themselves,” Valentine said.
According to Valentine, her department gets “a lot of calls about mold, but unfortunately there isn’t much we can do. We’re not even allowed inside unless it’s a food service jurisdiction.”
The EPA responded by email to Ivy’s request for assistance, stating it “will be processed as soon as possible within 10 business days.”
“In the meantime, you may be able to find the help you need from more immediate sources,” like “state agencies rather than federal government,” the email stated, listing resources on the EPA’s website.
Dandell has to give permission to allow mold testing in his apartment according to an EPA recommended mold mitigation company, Ivy said.
“I called, emailed, left messages for the managers at Dandell so many times pointing out the issues and even providing pictures, and asking for help. I was willing to work with them, but they would never respond,” Ivy said. “I just want to help be a voice for the people here.”
“I will continue to visit the property every day to check on the sewage issue. The village is on it, and I wish Dandell would get their stuff together, because we want to make sure everyone is safe, because we don’t know what’s in that sewage. Plus, it stinks,” Campbell said. “If I lived there, I wouldn’t want to smell that, and I don’t expect the residents to, either.”
As of Aug. 2 Campbell said, “there was evidence of another sewer back up last week, and some standing water remains, but it’s much better than it was.”
St. Clair County records show Fulton was cited in Belleville in 2009 and 2010 for multiple offenses for allegedly failing to obtain occupancy permits, and for one 2010 offense for allegedly allowing trash/debris to accumulate on property. All four charges were dismissed.