Thursday, July 10, 2014

City slaps fine on Sherman Hills

Wilkes-Barre hits owners for $33,000 for not inspecting apartments

September 19. 2013 11:43PM

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WILKES-BARRE — The city has levied a $33,000 fine against Sherman Hills Realty LLC on allegations the realty company failed to have apartments at the Sherman Hills complex inspected before new tenants moved in.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development personnel began a two-day inspection of the 344-unit complex on Monday, the same day the letter was sent to the Brooklyn, N.Y., realty company. The city alleges 60 units had new tenants, but the apartments were not inspected.

“It has come to the attention of the City of Wilkes-Barre that since the last time inspections were performed at your facility, 60 units have changed tenants. A change in tenant per the Wilkes-Barre City Code of Ordinances requires a rental inspection,” the letter says.

“The units have since been inspected but your company is still accountable for the fines during this period. The complex … has been found to be in violation of the Wilkes-Barre City Code of Ordinances entitled ‘Rental Dwelling/Residence and Tenant Registration,’ ” the letter said.

The letter is signed by Michael Simonson, city assistant director of operations.

The city levied fines of $500 per unit that was not inspected, including a $50 fee to inspect each of the 60 units for a total of $33,000, the letter said.

Sherman Hills Realty has the option of challenging the fine with the city’s Board of Appeals.

A woman who answered the phone in the manager’s office at Sherman Hills said, “No one is here to help you.”

The city passed the rental ordinance in December 2004 that required landlords and/or property managers to have apartment units inspected prior to new tenants.

HUD officials visited the apartment complex on Monday and Tuesday to complete an on-site Management and Occupancy Review, stated Niki Edwards, HUD regional public affairs officer.

Officials inspected the general appearance and security, maintenance and operating procedures, financial management and procurement, leasing and occupancy, relations between tenants and management, and general management practices, Edwards stated.

HUD’s report is expected to be completed in mid-October.

The apartment complex, which consists of a high-rise building and eight three-story buildings off Parkview Circle, has been plagued with reports of shootings, robberies, assaults and narcotics trafficking in recent years. Most recently, two girls, 5 and 2 years old, suffered gunshot wounds at an apartment on Aug 24.

Sherman Hills, located off the north end of Coal Street, does not have its own security force but employs off-duty city police officers to provide security on most weekends.

According to county records, Sherman Hills comprises 22 acres and is assessed at $7.3 million. The complex paid $153,145 in taxes to the county and Wilkes-Barre Area School District in 2012.

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