Residents of the Palmerhouse Apartments have organized to take on their new property manager, Palmerhouse Equities, for what they say are a hike in fees and maintenance charges. On Friday, they officially filed a petition to their new property managers insisting they cannot be held responsible for late fees or penalties due to new requirements to mail their rent out-of-state to New Jersey.
The petition has also led to the increased demand for city inspections to address an onslaught of other problems.
“We’re on a fixed income here. Any money that comes out of our (pocket) is detrimental to our economic welfare,” said Henry Lewis Jr., president of the Palmerhouse Resident Association (PRA.)
He said financial strains put on seniors by the new management range from paying for postage to mail rent payments to spending as much as $400 for bug spray. Lewis said he and other tenants feel they are being exploited.
“So now we have to mail our rent in which runs us about $7 a year,” said Lewis. “To you, that may not be a lot of money, but when you’re on fixed income that means a lot.”
Lewis said the added burden of mailing is also costly for people not physically able to easily get transportation due to their physical limitations. Late rent fees for lost mail or late mail also threaten to eat at their fixed budgets.
Safety and security is another issue the PRA says is an ongoing problem. Anthony Newman, PRA’s vice president, said they’ve had limited success getting property management to address the need for lighting.
“One of the main issues we have here is the security situation. We have a lot of elderly people here,” said Newmann. “We have people come in who are not supposed to be here and we’ve addressed this to them. Can we put a security guard here?”
Residents were not able to get a security guard but they did get management to turn on security lights in one of their outside lounge spaces.
“We feel we shouldn’t have to ask for these things; that should be something they should be providing,” said Newmann.
The list of grievances isn’t short. PRA said Palmerhouse has a longstanding bedbug problem that has not been effectively eradicated.
“We have a bedbug epidemic,” said Lewis. “They decided to treat the bedbug epidemic, but then bill us $400 per treatment. They only have this epidemic because they don’t have a comprehensive extermination program.”
Reuel E. Topas, Palmerhouse Equities’ attorney, said the allegations are not entirely true, citing the development has received a score of 98 for its inspection in February given by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Palmerhouse has had two inspections since Topas’ group took over in October of last year.
“One thing to consider is since we’ve taken over, HUD has given us excellent scores,” said Topas. “According to HUD we are doing everything we are supposed to do. They make you do a good job. They do look at detail. (It’s) not just a rubber stamp process.”
Topas also explained that residents do not have to pay for their bug spray unless they fail to prepare their apartment for the spraying. If they fail to follow the list of instructions provided, it can hinder the scheduled bug spray so Palmerhouse Equities charges “$31.80 for cancellation of treatment” and for the next treatment, residents are “charged in the amount of $300.”
“There is a more substantial charge because the practical matter is, we have to get the pest control guy back out,” explained Topas, “and for them to make a whole additional trip they charge quite a bit more.”
One of the bug spray requirements is that residents push their furniture about three inches away from the walls and place other items in the middle of their living spaces. Carolyn Saunders, a local community advocate for public housing tenants, believes the physical challenge in preparing for the bug spray is unfair.
“You have some of those people who can’t even walk. So how do they move their ladders and get stuff out of their closets?” argued Saunders. “They’ve got to help these tenants because either they are elderly or handicapped.”
She also said the ongoing bedbug problem suggests Chester City has not inspected Palmerhouse as regularly as it should in order to grant “Certificate of Occupancy” to new tenants.
“They can get a list of every inspected apartment and know exactly the date of when it was last inspected,” said Saunders. “A woman said she moved in two years ago and she had bedbugs from the door, which led me to believe that the place was not inspected by the city.”
Saunders also added it is possible the apartments have not been inspected by the city in years and highly unlikely that new tenants have moved in with a Certificate of Occupancy being granted to the property manager for each unit.
“Before anybody moves (in) a unit in the City of Chester they’re supposed to get a license to occupy the unit,” said Saunders. “They should not move a tenant out and move a new tenant in until the city comes in and inspects that unit to make sure the unit is decent and is passing all inspection.”
The Spirit made a number of attempts to contact city inspector Robert Leach to confirm how often the inspections have taken place at Palmerhouse. Leach visited Palmerhouse last Thursday but has not returned calls or emails.