Bon Air resident says apartment unliveable but rent still due

July fire damaged 22 Bon Air apartments

Friday, Aug 8, 2014 8:51 PM
Last updated Saturday, Aug 9, 2014 1:21 AM
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 The only thing separating Philip Baxley from his neighbor in their Bon Air Apartments on the ground floor is a flimsy, black tarp.

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Several units were damaged at Bon Air Apartments after a July fire. The wall separating Phillip Baxley's unit from his neighbor's is exposed and all of his carpet is ripped up.   TRACEY MCMANUS/STAFF
TRACEY MCMANUS/STAFF
Several units were damaged at Bon Air Apartments after a July fire. The wall separating Phillip Baxley's unit from his neighbor's is exposed and all of his carpet is ripped up.

The drywall has been removed from the bottom portion of the wall, and the 66-year-old disabled Vietnam veteran can kick the tarp and see straight through to his neighbor’s unit.

After a small kitchen fire on a second-floor apartment July 19, ceiling sprinklers soaked the second through ground floors, causing water damage ranging from minor to severe in 22 units.

Bon Air management removed the carpets and most of the ceiling tiles in the hallways to prevent mold, and each unit had its unique alterations.

Baxley’s unit had all of its carpet ripped up, most of the ceiling tiles removed and one of its walls cut open to be fully exposed, but rent was still due Aug. 1.

“I don’t feel safe here, it’s not livable, but they’re still making me pay rent,” said Baxley, who has rented a room in Burke County until repairs are completed but still must pay his $311 rent portion at Bon Air. “I’m not trying to live for free. I just don’t want to have to pay here while I’m paying rent somewhere else.”

Bon Air’s management company, Ambling Management, initially relocated two residents with the most severely damaged apartments to different units within the building, according to Lisa Wannamaker, an attorney representing Ambling. However, management could not move anyone else because Bon Air had no more vacancies available, she said.

That left residents like Baxley with few options.

Bon Air is entirely Section 8, project-based voucher housing, a program that ties funding to the unit, not the tenant.

For project-based vouchers, public housing agencies enter into contracts with property owners for specific units. Because assistance is tied to the unit, a tenant who moves away from the property loses that voucher.

Wannamaker said Ambling gave tenants in damaged apartments the option to terminate their leases with no penalty but no one took the offer.

She acknowledged that it’s an undesirable option because moving out of Bon Air would mean losing the voucher, and the tenant would have to go to the bottom of the waiting list to get another.

Augusta Code Enforcement has not condemned any of the units, including Baxley’s, which Wannamaker said makes them habitable.

However, repair work has not been able to start because the insurance company has not yet approved Ambling’s claim, leaving tenants to wait and live in damaged apartments.

“Our hands are kind of tied,” Wannamaker said. “We are sitting on top of our insurance company right now because insurance will have to pay for the work done. We’re saying please, please, please come out here. Please approve our plans.”

In an e-mail, Department of Housing and Urban Development spokesman Joseph Phillips said based on the code inspector’s clean inspection, Ambling is under no obligation to provide alternative housing to affected tenants.

Baxley said no one would want to live in such conditions.

“I guess this is life, but I’d just like for them to have compassion,” he said.

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jdsgirl63
2419
Points
jdsgirl63 08/08/14 - 09:28 pm
11
0
Section 8

Section 8 will not pay rent while the property is uninhabitable, they will abate the rent until it passes inspection. The tenants shouldn't have to pay rent until the units are renovated, they should stay elsewhere and not be punished.

The property owners will get the approval for repairs PLUS they will receive the market rent for each uninhabitable unit until they are occupied again from the insurance company.

They are treating these people like animals while lining their pockets. Disgusting.

corgimom
32616
Points
corgimom 08/08/14 - 09:37 pm
12
0
How in the HELL has Code

How in the HELL has Code Enforcement not condemned the unit? My three dogs live in better conditions than that!

Augusta Code Enforcement, DO YOUR JOB!

corgimom
32616
Points
corgimom 08/08/14 - 09:38 pm
7
1
I have heard so many horror

I have heard so many horror stories about the Bon Air, nobody should have to live there.

Riverman1
84152
Points
Riverman1 08/09/14 - 01:37 am
13
0
What A Shame

What a shame the formerly beautiful historic hotel has come to this.

Graymare
3210
Points
Graymare 08/09/14 - 06:28 am
7
0
What a mess

I knew someone who lived there temporarily years ago. She said weeds were growing all along her bathtub! What horrible conditions. Poor gentleman should not have to pay rent until it's fixed. Why haven't the moved him to a "decent" apartment off site? Bon Air should be footing his bill. And, yes, why hasn't the city intervened? Bon Air has no problem taking the "fat money" from section 8 but they can't help him? They should be made to do the necessary repairs immediately, and get reimbursed by the insurance. Regardless of the insurance company's timetable, the repairs still must be done.

Graymare
3210
Points
Graymare 08/09/14 - 10:03 pm
7
1
Do the math

22 units times $600 or $700 (guesstimate) from the government equals $13,200 or $15,400 a month. Plus, 22 units times $311 from each tenant equals $6,842 a month. Now, if section 8 is still paying and tenants are still paying, then why aren't the owners made to do the repairs immediately? Something stinks bad on this one!

seenitB4
87396
Points
seenitB4 08/09/14 - 06:43 am
12
0
The Beautiful Bon Air

Is no more.....what a crying shame.

So elegant & so regal in the past...what a sad way to die.

I think Augusta Golf started on the grounds there.

Riverman1
84152
Points
Riverman1 08/09/14 - 09:46 am
8
0
Famous Bon Air Guests

I found this in a Chronicle story concerning famous guests:

"The dignitaries included F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Rockefeller, Presidents William Taft and Warren Harding and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, according to The Augusta Chronicle archives."

Conservative Man
5567
Points
Conservative Man 08/09/14 - 11:09 am
6
2
Agree with corgi...

….Code enforcement can harass Bonnie Ruben for a property that is empty but will do nothing about this?….Really?

In the article it says.."Augusta code enforcement has not condemned any of the units"

Moreover it says…."In an e-mail, Department of Housing and Urban Development spokesman Joseph Phillips said based on the code inspector’s clean inspection, Ambling is under no obligation to provide alternative housing to affected tenants."

Code enforcement and in particular Mr. Rob Sherman (who, I believe) is in charge of these officers should override whoever gave these units a "clean" inspection and get this straightened out NOW….

Anyone here who agrees should do what I'm going to do…Call his office and ask that he do so immediately...

jimmymac
40020
Points
jimmymac 08/09/14 - 11:36 am
0
0
SEC 8
Unpublished

I have owned Section 8 properties in the past and my advice to anyone wanting to get into the rental market is to stay out of section 8 altogether. The units must meet standards to qualify to be section 8. The majority of dwellers start doing damage as soon as they move in. Holes punched in the walls, filth, damaged cabinets and lighting. I could go on and on but it's not always the "slum owners" fault. Try and keep up with it and you're accused of harassing them but if you don't you're a slum lord. Money can be made in apartment rentals but unless you want a ton of headaches stay away from section 8.

Jake
32583
Points
Jake 08/09/14 - 12:24 pm
8
0
I bet.....

.....late at night when all is quiet you can hear the faint sound of an orchestra in the old ball room. Kind of like the one in "The Shining". It is sad to see what has become of this former grand hotel.

allhans
23688
Points
allhans 08/09/14 - 01:28 pm
3
0
Is living there preferable to

Is living there preferable to giving up the housing supplement?

TrulyWorried
14309
Points
TrulyWorried 08/09/14 - 06:29 pm
2
2
Codes, regulations - red tape - no place to live

and in the mean time an elderly veteran is expected to pay rent for an apartment that cannot be occupied (not even safe for rats, let alone for a human being). What is the matter with this community? Don't they have ways to help out when help is truly needed? All these non-profit organizations that collect left and right - where are you - go help where help is needed! To expect this man to pay for something that he cannot use and on top of it have to pay to have a roof over his head in the meantime, borders on cruelty to human beings! Commissioners - why not look into this, I know it is not your department but it IS your city and its inhabitants. Shame on the whole human race for having such obnoxious regulations as they are quoted here!!

allhans
23688
Points
allhans 08/09/14 - 06:55 pm
1
1
I was led to believe that

I was led to believe that only a person with dependent children is eligible for Sect 8........Am I wrong?

corgimom
32616
Points
corgimom 08/10/14 - 06:17 am
0
0
Allhans, Section 8 is for any

Allhans, Section 8 is for any low-income person. You do not have to have dependent children to qualify for it.

You are thinking of AFDC.

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 08/10/14 - 03:03 pm
1
0
Code Enforcement
Unpublished

Is too busy harassing Bonnie Ruben over a vacant lot to worry about people in Bon Aire living in third world squalor. And Bon Aire is not alone.. you have similar conditions in at the Richmond Summit downtown and apartment complexes throughout the county. So where have the watchful eyes of code enforcement been?? They seem preoccupied with harassing Ms. Ruben. Funny how selective they are.. some property owners get the third degree while others get a total pass.

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