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Heatherton Apartments crumble, tenants kicked to curb as new owner steps in

After several failed inspections at Heatherton Apartments, new management plans to clean up the mess, but it appears tenants will be the ones left in the dust.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — After Heatherton Apartments in Davenport failed more than 20 city inspections in the last year, tenants were given 30 days’ notice - some told News 8 they were given just 11 days - to pack up their things and vacate the property upon failing its final inspection Wednesday, Feb. 16.

Deteriorating walls and ceilings, broken windows, mold, questionable plumbing, faulty electric wiring, standing water, rodent and insect infestation were among the code violations listed in a Dec. 10 inspection report News 8 obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Find the full report from the Dec. 10 property inspection below.

Some tenants at Heatherton’s three-building, 36-unit property were left feeling déjà vu.

The apartment complex’s owner, Rise Capital, was the same real estate investment firm that owned Crestwood Apartments in Davenport. In August, many Crestwood tenants were forced to relocate to Heatherton when the property was condemned for similar code violations.

RELATED: 'It's scary': Crestwood Apartment tenant struggles to find new housing after the city condemned the building

“I want the city to start holding these people accountable,” said Kelly Boyd, Heatherton tenant of three years. “They tried to treat us like animals out here, period. Point blank.”

In just two weeks, dozens of Heatherton tenants will be gone, and a new property management company will step in to make major updates after purchasing the property. Tenants were given a Feb. 28 deadline to move out, but due to policy changes, they have a hard deadline of March 28 – an additional 30 days - to vacate.

“Every unit has so many violations, and there’s so much damage,” Matt McDonnell with McDonnell Property Management said. “It really is a monumental task.”

New owner Arsenal Property Group hired McDonnell to help notify tenants of Heatherton’s change of ownership and vacate them for the property rehab to take place.

“COVID-19 was a problem for not only the tenants, but it was also a big problem for landlords,” McDonnell said. “When people had lost the ability to pay rent, that’s the only income a landlord gets … you just don’t have enough money to make repairs, whether they’re safety or just routine, regular repairs.”

While Arsenal said it hoped to be part of the solution to a problem that has gone on too long, a byproduct of a massive renovation project is that some tenants will face difficulty finding affordable housing with such short notice.

RELATED: Tenants at Crestwood Apartments forced to evacuate the property

Candy Carlton has lived at Heatherton since May 2017, and during her time at the complex, she said she has seen cockroaches, broken heaters, animal feces on patios and people kicking in doors and stealing from other units. After getting the 30-day eviction notice in the mail, she was left feeling frustrated and pressed for time because of her disability.

Read the City of Davenport's entire Dec. 10 property inspection of Heatherton Apartments here:

RELATED: Some US landlords finding ways to evict after getting rental aid

“That’s not enough time to find a place and stuff,” Carlton said. “I gotta find some people to help me move. I can unpack, but I cannot lift anything.”

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a lot of renters could not afford their housing before the pandemic hit, and now, the nation has seen changes to the housing market that have made it even more difficult.

“In Iowa … we have fewer than four affordable and available rental homes for every 10 renters that have an extremely low income,” NLIHC Vice President of Research Andrew Aurand said. “So, when they’re searching for another apartment, it is really a difficult situation and really difficult to find one that is both safe and affordable.”

According to a 2022 U.S. housing report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, 3.3 million rental housing units were considered at least “moderately inadequate” in 2019, and 820,000 of those units were “severely inadequate” based on structural deficiencies or absence of plumbing, electricity, water or heat.

“Everything is just all of a sudden … no warnings,” tenant John Howard said. “I just want to find someplace to go where me and my grandkids are safe and established well, where we don’t have to move every six months.”

Most renters in these inadequate units, according to the housing report, are those at a low-income level who are often people of color. This quality of housing was proven to pose an increased risk of disease, injury and other hazards that can be especially dangerous to children’s development.

“In most cases, what (renters) can afford does not necessarily pay for maintaining a property,” Aurand said. “The quality of that property is going to decline, so that’s why we really need to put more resources into affordable housing programs, both at the national and state level, so that way we can have quality housing.”

For tenants forced to vacate, Aurand recommended reaching out to Quad Cities emergency rental housing programs and housing nonprofits, such as the United Way of the Quad Cities, the Salvation Army of the Quad Cities and Project NOW. Because resources are limited, it could take reaching out to several places before you’re able to get the assistance you need.

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