Residents In Unsafe Housing Hesitant To Move

Topeka, Kan. (WIBW) - Authorities have ordered some residents of a crumbling Topeka Apartment complex to move out because it's unsafe.

The affected apartments 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. Seven of the 13 are currently occupied.

The City of Topeka issued the order Tuesday, but some residents say they're not worried.

"I just got here from work and this was on the door," Dan Shields said, pointing to his order to vacate. He and his wife just moved into their apartment on 1244 Belle Terrace two weeks ago.

"Today we got this notice on the door. It says we have to vacate, by November 30," he told 13 News.

Topeka city officials say property owners Rodolfo and Bonita Cuevas failed to comply with fire and building codes.

"We have stairways and balconies, which are the primary egress and ingress for those residences, the structure and integrity of them have been compromised," Topeka Fire Department Chief Greg Bailey said. "We think that they are unsafe."

The owners, who bear responsibility for the fixes, were ordered to remedy the failing framework after an inspection on September 7.

"The order for abatement was issued in September, and we went back [after] that time approximately 30 days, then after another period of time to see if things had been corrected," Bailey said. "Again we found little to no corrections at all."

Bailey said tenants have been notified the structures are unsafe, but the November 30 deadline was set to allow them time for the move.

Stairs and patios are currently propped up with two by fours, wooden barricades and metal wires.

Still residents say they prefer to stay put and they say the Cuevas aren't absentee landlords.

"[Rudy Cuevas] closed up all the patio, where they're stable. And all the walkways are stable," Shields maintained. "We don't feel like something's gonna fall down on us," he said, shaking a two by four that propped up his patio ceiling to demonstrate his point.

Other tenants say they're glad the city is holding the Cuevas accountable, but like Shields, they are caught in the middle.

"We don't want to move. We've paid three months in advance," Shields said.

City officials say they recognize the hardship of moving and are making resources available to tenants, including financial support for deposits and rent.

"What we're doing besides the deposit and the pro-rated rent for November -- because they already paid rent for their November rent - we want to help them with that, so we can get them out as quickly as possible," Corrie Wright, Housing Manager for Topeka's Department of Housing and Neighborhood Development, said. "We also try to help them moving, boxes, maybe even truck rental," she said.

"We want to be able to provide them with some options, we want them to get housing that's affordable and certainly by all means safe," she said.


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