June 22, 2024
Property

Residents of Durham’s JFK Towers File Class Action Lawsuit Against Property Owner Millennia


On Friday, January 19, 14 tenants at North Durham’s JFK Towers signed on to a class action lawsuit against property owner Millennia Housing Development. As the INDY reported, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently barred Millennia from entering into any new contracts with federal agencies. 

JFK Towers is designated for disabled and elderly residents, with all of its 177 units set aside for affordable housing. Local news outlets covered troubles at JFK Towers last summer. Maginnis Howard’s class action division and Duke Law’s Civil Justice law clinic filed the complaint. Tenants say many of the same problems they raised in the summer remain. 

“On Monday [January 15] we had all three elevators down,” says JFK Towers resident Johnetta Alston. “They’ve got the two passenger elevators fixed now, but they [Millennia’s contractors] are using them like a freight elevator, so they’re gonna break again. We’ve got trash chutes overflowing on all seven floors.”

Resident Johnetta Alston stands beside elevators that are out of service at JFK Towers. Credit: Photo by Wilson

The recurrently broken elevators are especially concerning in the seven-story apartment complex, where many of the residents have mobility issues and are unable to use the stairs. The lawsuit, and prior news articles, mention instances of elderly, mobility-impaired residents being stuck on their floors.

Alongside elevator issues, the lawsuit alleges “frequent termination of residents’ water supply without notice or alternate water supply, insect infestation and inadequate pest treatment, unsafe and unsanitary apartments and common areas, neglected waste management throughout the complex, unauthorized/excessive late fees charged, general lack of property maintenance and response to tenant complains, and dangerous disregard for fire safety and building security”

The 46-page lawsuit seeks relief for tenants from Millennia on the grounds of:

Breach of warranty of habitability – Millennia has continued to charge tenants market value rent for an uninhabitable property.

Unfair and deceptive trade practices – Millennia has continued to misrepresent the severity of issues at JFK Towers and failed to communicate a truthful timeline for repairs to tenants, all while collecting full rent payments.

Negligence – Millennia knowingly failed to do property maintenance and left tenants in unsafe living conditions.

The North Carolina Debt Collection Act – Millennia charged illegally high late fees and attempted to collect upon them.

Breach of Contract – Millennia consistently failed to fulfill their contractual obligations as landlords.

Unjust Enrichment – Millennia has financially benefited from charging excessive fees to clients.

Ian E. Vance, an attorney at Maginnis Howard, says that the suit seeks to bring accountability to Millennia and justice for JFK Towers residents.

“We understand that these are only the first steps on the road to redress, but we are adamant in the pursuit of holding Millennia accountable for the substandard conditions at JFK Towers,”  Vance says. “Providing safe and healthy living conditions to the elderly and disabled should not take a drawn-out legal battle, but that is what we are prepared to handle.” 

Collapsing ceiling panels at JFK Towers. Credit: Photo by Wilson

Millennia is no stranger to litigation, with class action lawsuits currently on file against the company in Georgia, Arkansas, and Tennessee

Read the lawsuit here:

2024_01_19_complaint_filed_copy

Comment on this story at backtalk@indyweek.com.

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