Hazardous Apt. Complex Vacated, City Assists Residents

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After the owner of Belle Terrace Apartments failed to comply with city building and fire codes, residents of the property were notified on Nov. 13 that they must vacate their homes by Nov. 30. The following information was released Friday by the City of Topeka.

TOPEKA, Kan. – The City of Topeka has remained devoted to helping place Belle Terrace Apartment tenants in new homes. City officials were on site at 12 p.m. today to confirm all affected residents were moved out, and affected units were placarded.

The tenants’ worlds were turned upside-down when the owner of their apartment complex, Rodolfo Cuevas, failed to comply with building and fire codes, and their apartment units were deemed too dangerous to inhabit.

The affected apartment units include numbers 1 through 6 at 1240 SW Belle Terrace, numbers 1 through 6 at 1244 SW Belle Terrace, and apartment 6 at 1236 SW Belle Terrace. In an effort to give residents as much notice as possible, City of Topeka officials notified tenants on November 13th that they must vacate by November 30th.

To help tenants deal with this crisis, City of Topeka officials teamed with several community organizations. Community Resource Council coordinated the efforts of social service agencies. The United Way of Greater Topeka coordinated volunteers to help tenants move. Let’s Help and Haus Janitorial donated moving trucks. The Breakthrough House and Topeka Rescue Mission staff rolled up their sleeves to help residents move. Efforts from Cornerstone of Topeka helped place a majority of the tenants into affordable housing. Vincent Mier, Roxanne Hollaway and Warren House Apartments also opened doors of their properties to affected tenants.

This effort involved teamwork from several City of Topeka departments. Housing & Neighborhood Development officials worked tirelessly to place residents in new housing. Development Services officials routinely inspected the property, and have worked with the owner to promote safety in the complex. The Topeka Fire Department ultimately put the owner and tenants on notice, in an effort to move tenants to safe housing. The Topeka Police Department provided several services that kept residents safe and comforted in this time of need.

Additional information:

· R D Little Construction requested a demolition permit Monday to begin removing old balconies, guard rails and stairs on 1244 Belle Terrace. The permit was approved Tuesday afternoon (11/27) and picked up Wednesday morning.

· Conditions of the issuance of the demo permit included that the vacancy of the upper units (3, 4, 5, 6) was confirmed in writing by the owner, and by a visual inspection conducted by Topeka Fire Department personnel.

· The notice to vacate is directly related to an inadequate system of ingress and egress. Stairways and balconies of the listed apartments are not structurally sound, and create a danger for the public entering and exiting the apartments.

· After November 30th, no one should enter or re-enter the affected units until authorized to do so by the City Fire Marshal or designee.

· The notice was based on an inspection of the premises on September 7, 2012, wherein the City Fire Marshal found violations of the State Fire Prevention Code, K.S.A. 31-134a. As a result of the inspections and a structural condition survey of the premises, the City Fire Marshal, on September 26, 2012, served on the property owners, Rodolfo and Bonita Cuevas, an Order to Abate the violations. After an inspection on November 1 and November 8, 2012, the City Fire Marshal determined that the property owners have failed to comply.

· City of Topeka officials became aware of the problem through complaints and concerns from residents. The City has been working with the property owner since December 2011 to remedy the structural problems. The owner did install temporary measures that were sufficient for 180 days. After those temporary measures expired, City of Topeka inspectors went back on site and found no improvements or changes to the structures.