While Emily Ortega was preparing to send her children off to their first day at school Wednesday, the kitchen ceiling in her apartment gave way.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Ortega said. The kitchen was a wreck, the microwave and stove ruined.
The family has dealt with shoddy maintenance work and uncooperative management since they moved to the Linbrook Apartments in February, she said.
The collapsed ceiling was the last straw for Ortega and her husband, Nathan Barnes, who have three children ages 2 to 11.
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When they moved in, they had problems from the start, Ortega said, including sewage on the bathroom walls, a bathroom ceiling that caved in and black mold in a bedroom closet from an air conditioner that wasn’t draining properly.
But the family said they couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. They are paying $1,140 in rent for a three-bedroom unit.
When the Star-Telegram contacted Linbrook management to ask what was being done to fix the problems, a person who answered the phone hung up. A second phone call resulted in being transferred to a voice mailbox, and a message seeking comment wasn’t returned.
The city of Bedford sued the owners of the complex, Brigelle Bedford Holdings and YTMH LLC, in March, alleging that the owners repeatedly refused to address numerous health and safety violations, including leaking water and sewer lines, rodent and insect infestations, faulty wiring, broken fences and structural problems.
According to the lawsuit, the complex owners were issued 56 citations for 91 violations in 2016. The city also issued several requests for the owners to fix the violations or face legal action, but the requests were ignored, according to the lawsuit.
Attorneys for the complex owners responded to the lawsuit in April stating that they deny the allegations and asked for proof from Bedford.
Natalie Foster, a spokeswoman for the city, said in an e-mailed statement, “We are pursuing an injunction and court order to require full compliance with all safety codes and ordinances. We are hoping for a hearing in court within the next 60 days. Since this is a health and safety issue for the residents, we are heavily enforcing any and all code issues.”
Barnes said when his family looked at the complex last winter, they wanted a three-bedroom apartment but were steered toward a two-bedroom unit. They persisted and said the complex management told them there was a three-bedroom apartment but that it was not ready and that they would have to clean it themselves.
The apartment was “trashed,” Ortega said, with feces on the floor and clogged sinks and toilets.
After deep-cleaning, the problems continued when the air conditioning unit dripped into a bedroom closet causing black mold to form. Nathan Barnes described keeping a 10-gallon bucket in the closet to catch the leaking condensation. The bathroom ceiling also collapsed because the upstairs neighbor’s toilet was dripping. Barnes said he could see the plumbing above his head.
Now, Ortega and Barnes must figure out where to live.
“We can’t stay here. It’s too dangerous for the children,” Nathan Barnes said.