Updated: Nov 14, 2022
After years of frustration Kings Manor tenants, with the help of ACER Housing Organizer Fadumo Mohamed, held a listening session with representatives of the property owner and property management. Kings Manor apartments, located in New Hope, are owned by Aeon, a nonprofit organization that builds, purchases, and renovates apartments and townhomes. In 2017 Aeon purchased Kings Manor, along with other properties, for $77 million. Steven Scott Management of St. Louis Park manages many of Aeon’s properties including Kings Manor.
While Kings Manor under previous ownership was in dire straits, Aeon and Steven Scott Management have not properly addressed any of the persistent issues which have only worsened in recent years. At the listening session, where Aeon Chief Transformation Officer Virginia Brown and employees of Steven Scott Management were present, residents brought up pervasive issues related to unfair displacement, poor maintenance, and disrespectful treatment.
Unlivable conditions caused by poor maintenance have not only been a long persistent annoyance for residents, but it has also endangered their health. Basic maintenance is not upheld; residents stated that trash is frequently piled up on the grounds of the apartment, sidewalks and parking lots are not shoveled during the winter, entryways are broken causing security issues, and the carpets in the hallways are old, nasty, and rarely cleaned. As winter approaches the residents’ number one issue is the drafty windows which need to be fixed or replaced as quickly as possible.
These maintenance issues have impacted the health of residents. One tenant said that her son is unable to live with her because he is allergic to bees and her unit as well as her garage has been infested with bees. She has put out multiple requests to fix the situation, but her requests have gone unanswered. This tenant is stuck paying rent for a unit that is unlivable and dangerous for her son.
During the listening session, another resident said that she is unable to use her balcony because the boards are rotten and moisture is leaking into her downstairs neighbor's unit. She fears she may fall through and injure herself or her neighbors. One resident claimed that he has had a maintenance request to fix the burner on his stove go unresolved for over a year. The maintenance staff has visited his unit more than once but has failed to resolve what should be a simple problem to fix. Even worse, a different tenant alleges that he did not have a stove in his unit when he moved in and has not received a stove in over 5 months despite his persistent requests to receive one.
Moreover, tenants stated in the listening session that they feel unsafe because they are not notified when maintenance staff is coming into their homes. The maintenance crew often wear plain clothes, so it is difficult to identify them as staff. Tenants who do not have email can’t get notifications when maintenance staff are in their unit because management has made communicating through means other than electronic difficult. Because of the lack of proper communication, the high staff turnover, and the lack of uniforms for the maintenance crew tenants encounter unknown people claiming to be maintenance staff entering their units. Other tenants have found signs that the maintenance crew has been in their unit without further communication or prior warning. The failure of Aeon and Steven Scott Management to effectively communicate who is staff and when they will be in residents' units has left tenants feeling uneasy in their own homes.
While the listening session was proceeding the tenants reported that other residents who shared their concerns were afraid to attend because they feared they would be penalized by management and the property owner. Tenants like Tyrone Murphy have felt that when they advocate for themselves, management and property owners retaliate against them. The disrespectful conduct of management has left residents feeling antagonized. Residents claim that, during the listening session, employees at Steven Scott Management made snide comments under their breath while tenants were speaking—something that is particularly disrespectful given that this event was supposed to be a listening experience for staff. This isn’t the first time residents have noted Steven Scott Management’s disrespect, tenants say Management staff "gossip" about tenants' personal issues out in the open where other tenants and staff can hear. Communication with management continues to be difficult as the front office is often not staffed or not open and management seems to only communicate through email despite many elderly tenants being unable to use email or lacking internet access. The lack of communication is also facilitated by high turnover among staff at Steven Scott Management, so residents are unsure who to contact when they have issues. This has caused problems and even confrontations when new management staff tries to enter tenants’ units despite tenants being unsure if they are employees.
At the session, tenants allege that Aeon and Steven Scott Management engage in practices that lead to residents fearing displacement from their homes. One tenant said that she had received an intimidating letter, shoved underneath her door without comment, stating that she owes unexplained money. She has heard that others have received similar threatening notes. Additionally, tenants feel that they are threatened with late fees because of a mistake on the part of the WIPS rent payment system that Kings Manor uses. This has led to threatening notices and late fees which have increased the possibility of displacement for tenants who are impacted by this mistake.
In a further blow to housing stability at Kings Manor, many tenants report being placed on month-to-month leases which are more expensive than long-term leases. Tenants do not want to be placed on these short-term leases which leave them in a precarious position. Because of the possibility of their leases not being renewed at the end of the month, tenants on month-to-month leases lack housing stability.
Since the end of the listening session, Aeon’s Chief Transformation Officer Virginia Brown has agreed to an additional listening session to hear residents who were unable to speak at the first session. Brown has sent a response to residents and housing advocates, including ACER, who were present at the meeting. ACER remains in touch with residents to support them as they continue to advocate for their needs.