Hispanic Residents Want Cleaner Living Conditions
Posted July 27, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
DURHAM — Dozens of Durham families are sharing their homes with rats and roaches, and sweating out the hot summer with no air conditioning.
Many of the Crossroads Apartments residents in Durham cannot complain because they do not speak English. They claim their landlord is taking advantage of the language barrier.
City inspectors have ordered some repairs, but they say careless tenants are part of the problem.
The ceiling in one resident's bathroom caved in after a busted pipe flooded the entire apartment. Weeks later, the carpet remained soaked, and the air conditioning was also broken.
Crossroads' Hispanic residents often have to ask their English-speaking neighbors to report maintenance problems. They say their constant complaints to landlord Lee Bergman go unanswered.
"He knows half of them are probably illegal or just need somewhere to stay," Crossroads resident Ernette Waller said. "He knows they're going to pay their money on time, all he cares about is the dollar."
Bergman's did not respond to requests for an interview. The city's housing director says Bergman completed all of the repairs they asked him to make at Crossroads. She says some of the blame lies with residents, who do not properly maintain their apartments.
"I think there are some cultural problems that make it hard for folks to want to call us and realize that we are going to get their problems resolved and not make the situation worse," housing director Kendall Abernathy said.
Durham's housing director says they will order repairs for any violations they find. They say Bergman has no records of fines with the department, and has complied with all of the repairs they ordered.
One of Bergman's employees said that they respond to maintenance requests within 24 to 48 hours, but says it is "not their problem" if residents cannot keep their apartments clean.