Arlington apartment owner promises to fix hundreds of code violations

ARLINGTON - The owner of an east Arlington apartment complex where city inspectors recently found more than 1,000 code violations, including mold, roaches and water damage, said Monday that he has hired contractors to make repairs.

Arlington code compliance officers conducted a full inspection this month of the La Joya Apartments on New York Avenue after discovering substandard living conditions in one building while investigating a reported water leak.

City officials said a water pipe in that building had been leaking for months, leaving several inches of standing water in the vacant downstairs units.

The Fire Department ordered that the building be evacuated and the four upstairs tenants moved after inspectors found floor-to-ceiling mold, exposed electrical wiring and other hazards.

Theodore Hansen, who owns the complex, said that several broken water pipes have been repaired and that work to bring the complex up to code will begin immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday. Hansen, who lives in Utah, said he was unaware of the extensive damage caused by the water leak until the city contacted him.

"I think the work will go rather rapidly," he said. "We love the people that live there. I have tenants that have lived there, some, for many, many years. I'd like to keep them."

Code inspectors reportedly found 1,080 violations, including graffiti, missing smoke detectors and some units littered with piles of trash and animal feces, after inspecting all eight apartment buildings at the complex, which has more than 180 units.

The property was last inspected by city contractors in March, but only a small percentage of the units were randomly selected for inspection, said Mike Bass, assistant director of city code compliance services.

All violations found at that time, which was before the water leak began, were corrected, Bass said.

La Joya's past-due water bill, which stands at $32,611.76, according to the city, is also expected to be paid this week, Hansen said. The broken pipes caused the complex's water bill to run about $10,000 more per month than normal, he said.

"I wish financially we were in a better place to never have it be late, but it has been late a few times," Hansen said. "We've never had the water turned off, and we never will."

Contractors have begun applying for construction permits to rehabilitate units in the water-damaged building, which remains unoccupied, Hansen said.

"We will upgrade them all so when new tenants come in, they will be pretty nice," Hansen said.

The city has a long history of dealing with problems at the property, which has changed hands many times.

If Hansen does not correct the violations, Bass has said, Arlington could pursue a court order to let it repair or demolish the complex, parts of which are more than 50 years old, and place a lien against the property to recover expenses.

In a similar case, the city is preparing to ask the Municipal Court to declare five buildings at the Forest Hills Apartments in north Arlington as dangerous and substandard structures to spur code compliance there.

City inspectors found about 850 violations during a full inspection of the Lincoln Drive complex in August, officials said.

Susan Schrock,


Twitter: @susanschrock