Water was ankle deep recently in the sixth-floor hallway of Harvey Hall, a 20-year-old Arlington apartment building, as rain poured through the leaky roof into the hall and seeped between apartment walls.
Despite several county citations about the roof, it still leaked. Last week seven apartments on the top floor stood vacant because of extensive water damage. Signs posted outside two of the empty units declared them uninhabitable.
But tenants were still living on most of the sixth floor and the five floors below.
"These conditions have existed for some time," said Charles Bynum, 43, who lives in a three-bedroom apartment and is vice president of the Harvey Hall tenants association. "Although management has said they would fix the building, they have not done so."
"We are putting on a new roof," said Peter Pantelic, president of the New York-based Equidyne Management, manager of Harvey Hall for its owner, Equidyne Properties II, which Pantelic said owns property in several states. He said Equidyne has done an excellent job of fixing up Harvey Hall since it bought the building in August 1979.
"We've repaired 90 percent of the apartments already," he said. "You're looking at two different buildings."
Tenants and Arlington housing inspectors, however, are less effusive about the job Equidyne has done with Harvey Hall, at 850-860 S. Greenbriar St. in the Bon Air neighborhood of Arlington. Besides the leaking roof, tenants have complained about an out-of-order elevator, lack of heat and hot water, and numerous minor problems ranging from a noisy exhaust fan to a broken toilet seat.
Arlington building inspectors recently cited Harvey Hall for 62 code violations, including walls and ceilings in need of repair, paint peeling from walls, a broken refrigerator drawer, electrical sockets that don't work, a constantly running bathtub tap and insects.
"I think they're tremendous procrastinators, about the biggest I've ever come across," Chief County Inspector Ted Payne says of Equidyne. In May, Harvey Hall's elevator remained broken until the county gave the owner 36 hours to repair it, he says. Pantelic blames the initial delay on the elevator company.
Payne says the most serious problem at Harvey Hall is its roof. Equidyne has been cited for roof deficiencies three times in the past year. And at 2 o'clock one recent Saturday morning, Payne was called to Harvey Hall and found an apartment flooded. The tenant has moved to another unit.
Problems with the roof began last November, County Inspector Darrell Holman says. Equidyne told the county repairs would be made, but before the roof was patched the ceiling in one apartment collapsed, records show. In Nellie McIntosh's apartment, paint has peeled off the living room wall as a result of water seepage, according to McIntosh. "It's ugly," says the 72-year-old McIntosh, who pay $455 a month for her two-bedroom unit. "You can't help but see it."
Several days after a recent rainstorm, part of the sixth-floor hallway still was wet.
Pantelic says repairs have been made as quickly as possible, explaining that the roof could not be fixed in the winter when snow and ice covered it. This spring, the roof was patched. "Unfortunately, the roof opened up at the last rainstorm," said Pantelic. "Right now, a roofer is working on it, putting temporary patches in." He says Equidyne plans to make permanent repairs to Harvey Hall.
"We've sent two people down on crew, cleaning it up," he said, adding that he expects the cleanup to be completed this week or next.
But some residents remain unconvinced. "A lot of people who have made this building their home are becoming disgusted and are moving out," says 27-year-old Deborah Rainey, who pays $365 a month for her one-bedroom apartment. "Now you can complain and things are never repaired."
Pantelic says Equidyne has made major improvements to Harvey Hall, including a new emergency generator, modernized boilers, waterproofing of the basement, repairs to air conditioning, painting in most apartments and new appliances.
"I think it's a nice place to live," he says. "We've done a lot of work and we're going to do a lot more."