Taking Action to protect residents of Huntsville Summit apartments

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Yet more complaints about Huntsville's Summit Apartment building. You may remember earlier this summer WHNT News 19 took action to help residents get their air conditioners working. But we immediately began hearing complaints of other issues, like bedbugs. There were also reports of threats and intimidation against the residents, warning them not to go public with the problems.

Residents at the Summit tell us bedbugs seem to be a recurring problem in the building. It's magnified by the fact the most effective pesticides against them have been taken off the market in recent years. The fact that so many of the building's residents are elderly or disabled further compounds the issue.

Sharon Fairley told us recently she has had to replace her furniture several times because the bedbugs just keep coming back. “I have been down to sitting on one chair, on one plastic chair and not getting any sleep because I’m walking, I’m looking around and waiting for something to crawl on me,” Fairley said.

Several residents have been forced to discard their furniture in an effort to rid the building of the bugs. Earlier this week, this construction dumpster at the back of the building was full of infested furnishings. On Wednesday the dumpster had been emptied but here it sits waiting on yet more infested furniture.

Ryan Kane tells us his mother lives there. “Then we financed brand new furniture for her, and that brand new furniture is now paid off and we're going to have to throw it away."

But perhaps the most alarming problem comes from residents who claim property management has warned them not to go public with the problems. Several have told us they were warned they could be evicted for letting others know about the bedbugs.

Just because someone is elderly or disabled or for whatever the reason unable to pay all of their bills and must rely upon federally subsidized housing in order to get by, that does not make them second-class citizens nor does it give anybody the right to treat them that way.

We went by Wednesday to talk to management about the improvements we hear are being made, and we were threatened with arrest. In fact, when we first drove up on the property, we spoke to a resident in a wheelchair. We witnessed that resident being scolded by the property manager for talking with us.

With so many complaints, and management's unwillingness to talk with us about those complaints, we took our concerns to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Summit is federally subsidized housing and subject to their jurisdiction. We registered the complaints of several residents, withholding their names because they feared repercussions from Summit management.

HUD contacted the building's owners and tell us seven residents reported bedbugs in late August. The company inspected all 101 apartments and found 10 more with bedbugs. HUD reports all 17 units received an initial spray on September 14th with additional treatments this week.

In following up with HUD, they tell us they are performing a comprehensive review of the property at this time and the owner will be required to remedy all areas of noncompliance.

As we followed up, a HUD spokesperson explained they recently performed a management review, which is an evaluation of the owner/agent's compliance with their business agreements that require them to offer decent, safe and sanitary housing.

The results of that review are not yet available. Several residents tell us HUD representatives have been on-site as late as this week.

We have also been in contact with Congressman Mo Brooks' office and they are working to make certain issues under federal jurisdiction are properly dealt with. Efforts to contact a spokesperson with property owners Ambling Management Company were unsuccessful Wednesday.

A resident we spoke with Tuesday told us she hasn't seen a bedbug in her apartment in roughly three weeks, and she was very happy about that. She also says management is taking up all the carpet in the building in an effort to get rid of the bedbugs. But when we stopped by to ask management about that Wednesday, they threatened to have us arrested. So WHNT News 19 is going to continue to monitor the situation, with or without the cooperation of management until we're satisfied the residents have a decent place to live.

Towards that end, we’re still compiling information from residents to make certain all of the issues are dealt with. If you're a resident of the Summit who has been threatened or intimidated because of problems with your apartment, contact WHNT News 19’s Al Whitaker at al.whitaker@whnt.com.