Residents told to leave uninhabitable apartment complex in Gallup
GALLUP, N.M. — The City of Gallup red-tagged an apartment complex near downtown Wednesday morning, giving tenants a day to gather their things and find somewhere else to temporarily live.
According to a report by the Gallup Fire Department, a crew spent over an hour inspecting the property Tuesday morning, noting a long list of deficiencies and code violations.
A day later, the city posted red signs on every door in and around the building at 107 East Hill Ave.
Officials told KOB 4 in a statement it responded to numerous complaints and demands from tenants and neighbors and determined the property is not safe to occupy:
“The inspection showed that, among other things, the property was insect infested throughout, had damaged windows and doors, ceilings with leaks and growing mold, walls with holes, cracks, and growing mold, damaged and blood-stained flooring and carpet throughout, graffiti on all interior surfaces, unstable stairs in the common areas, damaged plumbing and light fixtures, and multiple fire code violations. The property is not fit for human habitation and is dangerous both to those who occupy it and the surrounding community.”
Read the full statement from the city here:
Property owner David Jordan told KOB over the phone, he feels he is being unfairly targeted and harassed by city officials. He also said this is the first time most of the listed code violations have been brought to his attention.
“The first I knew of all this is when the list of alleged code violations was emailed to me right at the end of the day yesterday,” Jordan said. “I’m not going to sit here and promise you that I have studied each and every deficiency that they’re claiming. So, it is certainly possible that one is the same or similar as a request for repair I’ve received from one of my tenants.”
Jordan continued, saying it is going to be hard to correct every violation before the city’s follow-up inspection on Aug. 10.
“We’re certainly going to give it a try,” he said. “But I don’t believe that that’s what the city really wants. They manufactured this list so that they could put pressure on me.”
Even though tenants said the complex is a hotspot for crime, their maintenance requests have been ignored for years, and they fear for their health and safety if they stay—right now, they have nowhere else to go. KOB interviewed eight of the residents over the phone, who wish to remain anonymous. They said they feel like they are being punished for their landlord’s negligence.
“I just feel really left out in the cold by my landlord, and I just don’t know what to do,” one said.
“There are a lot of families—good families that have been stable because they had housing, and for Mr. Jordan to take this type of action is unfair,” said another.
A third tenant said his emotions are all over the place, but he fears most for his family and young child.
“It’s going to be really hard for a lot of us because not a lot of us have sources—resources or a lot of help,” he said.
A fourth tenant said the ordeal is also heavily weighing on her emotions.
“I’ve been homeless for quite some time, and I barely found a home, and it’s really hard,” she said.
Jean Philips, a staff attorney for New Mexico Legal Aid, said the tenants should have a right to proper notice and an opportunity to be heard. She also said she believes the city is legally obligated to provide the necessary support to tenants to relocate, while the owner addresses the 37-page list of violations.
Even though city officials said they are on-site offering assistance and resources to ensure no one becomes homeless as a result of this red tag notice, they said that responsibility should fall on the property owner.
“I don’t have the money to go find hotel rooms for all these tenants,” Jordan said. “I just don’t.”
“My tenants have nowhere to go,” he added. “We’re probably going to file a preliminary injunction, at least—not to not correct these violations—I mean, if they are out of code, they are out of code, and we will fix them.”
Jordan said his tenants may choose to use their rent money to pay for temporary housing somewhere else.
Philips said, as of noon Thursday, city officials had not forcibly removed anyone from the property. While city reps said they have an obligation to enforce the order for the safety and well-being of the residents, they are willing to work with them.