Apartment residents in Marshall told to move out

By  | 

MARSHALL, Minn. (KSFY) -- The temporary closure of one of the large apartment properties in Marshall, Minnesota is creating a housing emergency.

Last Thursday, the Sunrise Court Apartments was purchased by the company Suite Liv'n. The new owners immediately notified all of the tenants with a letter stating they would have to move out by October 19th due to a failing heating system in all three buildings.

"I come back home from work about 10 o'clock at night with the wife showing us a note saying we have to leave in 30 days," resident Ronald Huback said.

"I have barely been here for a month," resident and Southwest Minnesota State football player Dominique Nelson said.

Some residents moved into the complex as a recent as September 1.

"20 years, I've live 20 years in Sunrise (Court Apartments)," resident Amina Ismail said.

Others have lived in the building for decades.

"When we moved here, we called around," resident Bill Anderson said.

He and his family moved to Marshall in February and had a tough time finding an apartment.

"We called eight, nine, or 10 different places for a three bedroom apartment, and this was the only one that was open," resident Bill Anderson said.

Right now roughly 60 families are trying to find a new home.

"The rental situation has always been pretty tight in Marshall," Economic Development Director Tara Onken said.

"It's college time. To find a place to live is going to be virtually impossible," Anderson said.

The apartment complex is a block away from Southwest Minnesota State University.

"It's terrible timing for this," SMSU Dean of Students Scott Crowell said. "For them having to worry about tests and worry about other students that already have housing contracts around the community."

Crowell said the university will do everything they can to help students living in that apartment find a place to stay. He said there is some space available in residence halls.

"We paid a lot of money our first month being here. Now we have to move somewhere else and pay it all over again," Nelson said.

But even if they do find an opening, money is the next big factor.

Nelson and his wife just paid the deposit and fees for Sunrise Court this August and believe they will only get about half of that back now that they have to move out.

In the notice to vacate letter taped to every door inside the Sunrise Court apartments, Suite Liv'n said tenants will not be required to pay any rent for October. The letter also said they must make arrangements to vacate the property by October 19th.

Some residents have already started searching for a new rental property in town, but are having a tough time finding something available and in their price range.

"So while there may be units that are available, they're not even close to what the residents have been paying for the last how many years they've been living there," Onken said.

Onken says the Sunrise court apartments were naturally affordable.

"Every day, the money, I've never been late," Ismail said.

Ismail said after 20 years of always paying her rent on time and keeping her apartment very clean, she is having a tough time understanding why she received the letter.

"Her son called me from New York to explain the letter to him," resident Joshua Prine.

Joshua Prine is now working as an advocate for his neighbors. He said many people are confused about what's going on.

"There's a lot of diversity here. One floor the people might speak one language with only one person speaking English," Prine said.

He hosted two meetings for residents last weekend, saying the new owners are not communicating enough.

"Nobody was here all weekend. I invited them to community meeting. They did not show," Prine said. "They just taped it [the notice] and left so that people with questions couldn't get answers."

Monday, a new notice was taped to residents doors that included a list of rental properties in the community and their phone numbers.

KSFY spoke with one of the building's new owners Monday. They said this is not an eviction but a notice to vacate, saying the believe its a service to the people living here.

The new owner said the heating system won't make it through the winter and he didn't want anyone living inside a building that would likely freeze up in the Minnesota winter.

Suite Liv'n hopes to make repairs and renovations in the building throughout the winter and have all apartment 102 units ready to rent again by spring.

City leaders say long term, they believe having access to more quality apartment homes will be a good thing for the community. Onken said right now, several units inside the complex are vacant due to damage or decay.

The repairs will eventually mean there will be more apartments available for rent in Marshall. But in the short term, Onken said it's incredibly difficult for the essential community members that have been affected.

"We know that the apartment needs redeveloping and renovations, but were concerned when we heard it was going to be such a short timeline for the winter," Onken said.

Onken and others in the Marshall Economic Development office are working directly with tenants from the complex to try and help them find an affordable place to live in Marshall.

"We don't want to see them leave Marshall," Onken said. "We're doing everything possible we can to get them the resources available to do that."

Onken said she does believe the new owners of the apartment are trying to be proactive.

A spokesperson for Suite Liv'n said they think it would be more difficult for the tenants to have to move out on in even shorter notice in the middle of the winter when the boiler shuts down and the building freezes.

But several tenants say they believe the new owners claim that the heating system is broken is just an excuse.

"I know last winter my heat worked just fine," Anderson said. "In my opinion, I think it's just a way for them to empty up the building, do a little bit of repairs and open it back up to get more money."