A class action lawsuit by tenants of Clinton Place Apartments, an apartment building for the elderly and disabled in Lawrence, was one option raised during a Thursday meeting of tenants unhappy with managment practices.
The meeting was attended by about 25 tenants of Clinton Place Apartments, 2125 Clinton Pky., an apartment building subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Vermont Towers, 1101 Vt., another subsidized building whose tenants also have voiced concerns. It was sponsored by the Kaw Valley Chapter of the Older Woman's League and held at the Lawrence Public Library.
Members of the Coalition on Housing Concerns for the Elderly and People with Disabilities, a group that tries to address specific housing problems in Lawrence, as well as local housing officials, also attended the meeting.
Tenants said they have become frustrated in their attempts to get the owner of Clinton Place to address their concerns and to get information from the HUD office in Kansas City, Mo.
Barbara Huppee, executive director of the Lawrence Housing Authority, told the tenants she was not advising them in any way, but said that taking the issue before a judge may be an eventual option.
SHARON LUKA, a Clinton Place tenant, said Management Associates Investors, Kansas City, Mo., the firm that manages Clinton Place, has not agreed to install a system for responding to calls from tenants using emergency cords located in each apartment. Luka said such a system is needed because some residents are elderly and disabled and could need to summon help.
Luka said the calls are answered when the building manager is there, but no one is available to respond when the manager leaves.
She also said that every other HUD-subsidized apartment building in Lawrence for the elderly and disabled has emergency response systems in place.
Another concern raised by a number of Clinton Place tenants involved a recent rent increase. Tenant Michael Fargo said information about the rent increase was placed under tenants' doors the same day the newly formed tenant's association scheduled a Thanksgiving dinner.
HUPPEE told tenants that such a rent increase probably violates a lease between tenants and managment and the Kansas Landlord-Tenant Act, which says rent cannot be changed unless notice is given in writing and agreed to by tenants and management.
Ed Dutton, a retired Kansas University professor of social welfare who has been helping tenants organize the association, urged tenants not to feel intimidated by management.
And Huppee suggested that tenants gather as much information about their rights as possible.
"Information is power," she said.
Bob Mikesic, an official with Independence Inc. and a member of the housing coalition and the city's task force on discrimination, said he was gathering information about tenants' concerns to take to the task force on discrimination. He said fair housing laws prevent discrimination by intimidation.