INDIANAPOLIS — Utilities for residents at four Indianapolis apartment complexes will not be shut off.
JPC Affordable Housing is being forced to sell all Berkley Commons, Capital Place, Oaks at Wood Crossing and Covington Square Apartments.
The properties must sell by December 31st. New management with no ties to previous owners must take over.
This comes after a settlement in a 3-way lawsuit with the city, Attorney General's office and Citizens Energy against the owners, which is nonprofit, JPC Affordable Housing, connected LLC's under different names and Oron Zarum.
The nonprofit will not be able to operate in the state for 7 years.
Citizens Energy says they've missed 20 payment arrangements and have $1.9 million worth of unpaid utility bills.
"This is an unprecedented situation. We've experienced nothing like this ever before. We have not tried to put anyone in harm's way. At the same time, protect the residents and protect the balance of our ratepayers," said Citizens Energy CEO Jeffery Harrison.
Utility bills are supposed to be included in the resident's rent.
"I'm paying every month. Faithfully," said Berkley Commons Resident, Mary Smith.
Citizens Energy threatened to shut off water and gas for thousands of tenants, by the end of September, if the owners didn't reach an agreement.
The utility company said shortly after, negotiations began.
"It shouldn't have to come to this for people to threaten us for something to be done about it and it's at the expense of the tenants and not the people who own it and run it because we are the ones that are paying them every month. We are the ones having to suffer from what they are doing," Jazmine Evans said.
Jazmine Evans and her father Roosevelt say they're thankful they no longer have to worry about having running water, but the stress caused over the past few months has taken a toll on their mental health.
"At this point, I am taking precautions. I am returning back to some psychological help at VA because of some of the things I've suffered here," Evans said.
Mayor Joe Hogsett said the mismanagement of funds and stress on tenants should have never happened.
"You did not deserve to be treated this way. Nobody up here wants families to have to put up with the kind of uncertainty we saw at the properties of question," Hogsett said.
Once the properties sell, Citizens Energy will receive around 80% of the $1.9 million owed.
The city will receive up to $850,000 that it is owed.
Renters are hopeful that new management brings these properties back to life.
"I hope new management gets some education on what they need to do to keep their tenants happy, which is pay your bills, do your maintenance and inform your residents as to what's going on," Evans said.
"I just hope when they sell that they will get it all worked out where management will actually fix these places up and make it what it should be," said Smith.
The Attorney General's Office says the nonprofits must dissolve in the state by April 30th, 2023.
Attorney General, Todd Rokita said his administration is looking into Indiana's nonprofit law in hopes to prevent this from happening again.
"JPC is a nonprofit organization. They promised to provide housing under that status. They delivered inadequate substandard housing and that's never the deal," Rokita said.
The city and Attorney General's lawsuits are in conjunction with the suit Citizens Energy Group filed in April.
The city paid Citizens Energy Group $850,000 in back-due water bills in February in order to get the water turned back on for residents at both apartment complexes. The water had been shut off after the owners failed to pay Citizens, even though landlords at both complexes had been collecting utility bill money from tenants.
Citizen's Energy provided the following statement in a press release:
"Citizens has taken unprecedented efforts over the past two years to keep utilities connected at JPC-owned properties, including engaging in 19 payment arrangements with JPC, which were subsequently broken, and providing about two dozen monthly notices warning of potential disconnection. In 2021, Citizens wrote off more than $240,000 of JPC’s past due utility debt after the sale of its Lakeside Pointe at Nora and Fox Club properties.
"Under the terms of the agreements announced today, JPC will be selling their four remaining properties in Indianapolis and proceeds will be used to compensate Citizens and other creditors. Citizens expects to received approximately 80% of JPC’s past due amount. While the properties are for sale, the agreement requires JPC to stay current on their monthly utility bills to ensure continued utility service."
WRTV Real-Time Editor Lucas Gonzalez contributed to this report.
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