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Hundreds told to move from Colonial Village apartments following legal issues

The sign for Colonial Village Apartments on East Livingston Avenue
George Shillcock
Hundreds of residents of Colonial Village Apartments are being forced to move out due to unsafe living conditions.

Nearly 900 residents, many of them Haitian refugees, received notices Tuesday to move out of the Colonial Village apartments in east Columbus.

The apartment complex had been under a city court order for numerous violations.

Signs posted to the doors of some apartments this week told residents the apartments are in need of extensive renovations that it says cannot be completed while people are occupying the units. It states the property management company, Capstone Real Estate Services Inc., is informing residents the residents rights to occupy their apartments will terminate on Dec. 31 whether they rent it month-to-month or if they "took possession of [the] apartment without color of law."

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said the complex's receiver and lender were under court order to have nightly and regular inspections of all the units, but those inspections did not happen.

"You know clearly they dropped the ball, and failed to live up to that requirement under the court order," Klein said.

Klein said the city is working to relocate the residents before the deadline of Dec. 31.

The letter posted to the door also gave instructions and information about how the residents can obtain assistance through the real estate company in partnership with the city of Columbus. It also lists other resources like Community Refugee & Immigration Services, Haitian Community Network, Columbus Metropolitan Library and the City of Columbus Housing and Assistance Program.

Colonial Village resident Genaro Diaz is one of the hundreds of residents dealing with the sudden eviction from his home. He lives in a two bedroom apartment with a bright teal door with his wife and two children.

Diaz does plumbing work for the apartments and said he's heard from other residents that they fear what comes next.

"Everybody is scared because having no place to move and having no time because its too soon, you know? Because one month? Si, maybe a couple more months and maybe its okay," Diaz said.

The organizations are offering temporary housing, with priority to those living in apartments without hot water or electricity, but Diaz said he probably wouldn't take advantage of this option because he has an apartment full of belongings that he has to put somewhere.

Klein said officials are awaiting a ruling on their case against the complex's former management company Hayes Gibson. "The former property manager's office was essentially running an underground operation where they were allowing folks to live in these units and taking rent checks from them. So they were taking advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in our community that came here," Klein said.

WOSU has been unable to reach anyone at the company.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.