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 — have filed for bankruptcy after the company was fined nearly $4.4 million.

Paxe Latitude, the management company that owns the 394-unit apartment complex on Sawyer Boulevard, filed a petition on Feb. 20 in New Jersey for relief under Chapter 11, according to Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein. The moves comes after the company was fined $4.3 million on Feb. 17 for its failure to abide by multiple provisions of an agreement it entered into with the city of Columbus.

“The ownership group at Latitude Five25 ruined the lives of tenants and are now trying to evade any responsibility for their actions by skipping town and running off to New Jersey to declare bankruptcy,” said Klein in a release.

Klein said Columbus has filed a motion in response, asking the court to dismiss the company’s bankruptcy filing and arguing the filing was made in order to evade the fines and appointment of 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.

Reading the city’s full filing below.

An 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. 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 handling 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.

In holding Paxe Latitude in contempt, Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Stephanie Mingo ordered owners comply with the following:

  • Relinquish the property to a receiver, to be chosen by Lument, the property’s lender
  • Pay $2.5 million to the court by March 3 to compensate the former tenants of Latitude Five25, subject to adjustment by the court.
  • Pay a $1.13 million contempt fine to Columbus by March 13, which includes an outstanding water bill of $180,000
  • Pay a $750,000 fine to Franklin County by March 13.
  • Pay the full balance of all utility bills by April 13.

“Our primary focus has been the safety and welfare of the tenants whose lives have been upended,” said Scott Messer, director of Columbus Building and Zoning Services Department.  “We will hold this irresponsible property owner accountable for allowing and even causing the deplorable conditions at the property.”