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Wilmington apartment complexes evict tenants due to storm damage.
NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The boxes in Alicia Brooks’ The Glen apartment were barely unpacked when she had to start looking for a new home.
Brooks arrived in Wilmington from Virginia Beach at the end of August. Hurricane Florence followed on Sept. 14; less than two weeks later, The Glen announced it was closing and evicting all tenants due to storm damage and mold growth.
A letter taped to Brooks’ door told her she had to leave.
“They didn’t even knock or anything, so it’s pretty frustrating,” she said. “I’m stressed to the limit, but luckily I have family here to help me move, and I was able to afford to hire movers. That’s been really helpful.”
Brooks also said she was lucky enough to find another apartment in town before The Glen shuttered Monday.
Not all of her neighbors did. Monday morning, staff from Phillips Management Group — The Glen’s management company — and volunteers with the American Red Cross sat down with tenants in the leasing office. Lining up near a table of donated supplies, tenants waited to settle their leases and, hopefully, get referrals for new housing.
When management decided to close The Glen, there were 481 occupied units, according to James Jarvis, Executive Director of the American Red Cross of the Cape Fear Area. With less than 24 hours before tenants had to be out, 150 units had not turned in their keys.
“There’ve been a lot of moving trucks, which is encouraging,” Jarvis said Monday. “But we are are faced with the possibility that will be maybe 150 people with nowhere to go, so we are looking at possibly having to shelter them.”
It’s a scenario playing out in apartment complexes throughout Wilmington.
Management companies, bringing in inspectors and insurance adjusters, are finding not just leaky roofs and soggy carpets, but creeping, toxic mold. Even those complexes that intend to repair and rebuild say the liability is too great to let tenants stay.
“While it is our intention to rebuild The Glen community, our focus now is on protecting the health and safety of our residents,” Phillips spokesman Monty Hagler wrote in a statement Sept. 28.
For 120 apartments in New Providence Park off Northchase Parkway, residents got barely any notice before eviction. On Sept. 26, they got a letter from Tribute Apartment Living that their power would be turned off that day, and their tenancy terminated “effective immediately.”
At the 280-unit Still Meadow Village in Monkey Junction, all third-floor and several second- and first-floor units were evicted after widespread roof damage. Kevin Thompson, chief marketing officer at Carlisle Residential, the complex’s management company, said that “scores” of people had been displaced.
Thompson did not know how long repairs would take, but said tenants would be able to reapply to live there and would have all application and processing fees waived.
“If someone is interested in coming back, we should be staying in contact,” he said. “Like our residents, we are a victim too, and are just trying to handle this as safely and quickly as possible.”
“A land grab”
One Still Meadow Village resident who asked that her name not be used questioned how well Carlisle prepared for Florence.
The third-floor resident stayed in her apartment during the storm, at one point using her body to hold a bedroom window shut as water gushed through. The water also poured in through vents, the sprinkler system and a patch in her living room ceiling she was told was repaired after Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
Throughout the storm, the firebox in her unit’s chimney, which she said was loosened during Hurricane Matthew in 2016, slammed against the brick. She found one firebox on the lawn in the days after.
On top of that, she said complex staff could not return to Wilmington for days after the storm, directing tenants’ questions to a call center.
“The longer that I’m here and the more I realize what happened, they’re really, really lucky that nobody died here,” the resident said.
Back at The Glen, Wilmington contractor Patrick Hurley spent days volunteering to help move tenants. He said he wondered whether 100 percent eviction was the complex’s only option.
“Of the seven units I’ve been in, five were pristine, not condemnable,” Hurley said, noting that the other two had black mold and a collapsed ceiling. “It’s a land-grab. … They’re going to raze this place and put up more expensive units.”
In a statement to media, Phillips Management Group said 80 percent of The Glen’s apartments were damaged, and others had mold.
Whatever happens to their old apartments, people need somewhere to stay now. Jarvis with the Red Cross said most hotels in the county are already full of Florence refugees. Between its two remaining shelters in New Hanover County, the Red Cross has room for 190 people, and as of Sunday 167 cots were full.
Jarvis urged everyone in affected apartments to apply for FEMA aid as soon as possible, then contact their property managers to learn about options for alternate housing.
“We’re working as diligently as we can with both county officials and with property management agencies in all of these circumstances,” Jarvis said. “We’re trying to bridge this gap until they can get back to a normal housing situation.”
Reporter Cammie Bellamy can be reached at Cammie.Bellamy@StarNewsOnline.com.