COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The owners of Latitude Five25 — an apartment complex plagued by bedbugs, broken elevators, asbestos, burst pipes and deemed unsafe to live in — are facing a potential dismissal of their bankruptcy filing if the company doesn’t comply with a New Jersey judge.
Paxe Latitude, the management company that owns the 394-unit apartment complex on Sawyer Boulevard, has been ordered to prove it has the funds to repair the towers or receive a dismissal of the company’s recent bankruptcy claim, according to Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein. The company filed a petition last month in New Jersey for relief under Chapter 11 after it was fined $4.3 million for its failure to abide by multiple provisions of an agreement it entered into with the city of Columbus.
“The city respects the court’s decision and ultimately wants to see a swift resolution to this case that holds property owners accountable for the damage they’ve caused tenants as well as the taxpayers who continue to foot the bill for the mess these landlords created,” said Klein in a statement.
Columbus previously filed a motion in response to the company’s bankruptcy claim, asking the court to dismiss the filing and arguing it was made in order to evade the fines and appointment of a receiver to take over the property. In the event the court allows the case to continue, the city’s motion also asked to allow the immediate appointment of a receiver to take control of the property while the bankruptcy case is pending.
The agreement Paxe Latitude entered into with the city required the owners to sell the property, pay off more than $300,000 in outstanding bills to utility companies and obtain necessary work permits, including from the Environmental Protection Agency, to repair water damage and handle asbestos at the towers. The court found that owners completed none of these requirements, and in fact, hired contractors who failed to comply with law or industry standards when dealing with asbestos.
The hundreds of former residents of Latitude Five25 have been displaced for nearly three months, after the towers were left without heat, potable water or working elevators.
Before the evacuation, Latitude Five25 was the site of more than 1,000 calls to police between Jan. 7, 2020, and Jan. 6, 2022, according to court documents. Overdoses, stabbings, fights and regular calls to shootings plagued the towers, the city’s complaints alleged. They also listed roach infestations, bedbugs, busted pipes, water damage, broken doors and broken windows in housing inspector reports.
“Paxe Latitude was happy to cash rent checks every month, but now when it’s time for them to pay up, they’re trying to do everything they can to get out of it,” said Klein. “The city tracked them down to New Jersey and will continue to use every legal tool we have to ensure this judgment is paid, tenants are made whole, and management of the towers is transferred to a receiver.”