Last week, residents of Warwick Apartments, a 21-story building in Kemp Mill, received a letter from the management.
It read: “We are fully aware that you may not be as comfortable as we would like you to be, especially with the recent cold temperatures, and apologize for any inconvenience that this may be causing you.”
That inconvenience includes no heat or running water, residents of the 426-unit building said. The building, which is within walking distance of several Orthodox synagogues, is home to many Jewish residents.
The Nov. 14 letter mentions that management plans to replace the HVAC system after completing current pipe repairs. It also notes that the building has restocked on space heaters.
On top of having no heat for weeks, residents have complained that the fire alarms don’t work, they have cockroaches, and sometimes don’t have hot or running water.
The heat simply didn’t come on when the weather started to get cold this year, said one resident, who said she finally got heat on Nov. 6. Residents interviewed for this story asked that their names or full names not be used to avoid repercussion from the apartment complex.
“I’m one of the lucky ones that actually have heat right now in this moment,” she said last week. The heat didn’t turn on for all residents on the same day.
However, Operations Manager Sam Fishman said Nov. 18 that all units had heat by that point, “as far as I am aware.”
He also said there was never a time in which the entire building was without heat.
“There isn’t anybody, nor has there ever been anybody who didn’t have heat,” Fishman said, pointing to the fact that the complex offered space heaters to its residents. “There has been no neglect here or anything.”
On Oct. 22, the building management sent a memo apologizing for the lack of running water, which was turned off due to a leak. The email addressed the heating issue as well, noting that it was related to the water troubles.
“We have been in the process of getting the heat turned on for several days but, experienced several leaks while draining the cold-water lines,” the email said. “Please continue to give us your patience as we continue working on getting the heat turned on.”
The complex sent updates again on Oct. 24 and Oct. 31 saying it was still working on the issue.
Until Nov. 6, the resident and her two children were surviving by “bundling up, honestly,” she said. Her son has asthma, and she said the cold weather causes issues for him.
The apartment complex announced it would hand out space heaters to residents. That notice came on Nov. 1, but this resident, who lives on the 16th floor, said there was no information about distribution.
When she asked the front desk, they told her someone would be around to her apartment in 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, they told her they had run out of space heaters already.
“They ended up giving me one little space heater for my apartment so I put that in my kids’ room so they could sleep warmly,” she said. Residents with one bedroom were supposed to get one space heater, while two or three-bedroom apartments were supposed to get two. This resident lives in a two-bedroom apartment.
Fishman said management had “hundreds of space heaters,” and only 12 people came to get them after the building initially ran out. He said, “There was never a situation where people were cold.”
“If they come into the office … maintenance would have gone ahead and taken care of everything for them,” he added.
But another resident, Miri, said the emergency maintenance line never seems to get her messages. On the first weekend of November, she woke up Saturday morning to her apartment being 65 degrees.
“So I’m freezing for a day and can’t turn on a space heater because it’s Shabbos,” she said, using the term for Shabbat observant. “Those of us who are shomer Shabbos didn’t get the email … we didn’t know they were distributing space heaters Friday night.”
Miri’s situation is different from most in the building; her apartment has its own heater. But her heat had shut off because the filter needed to be changed.
“It was normal maintenance that they should’ve just come and done now that it’s getting cold,” she said, “and instead I didn’t have heat for 36 hours.”
The lack of communication between residents and management is a big concern for Miri, who also gets leaks in her apartment frequently and said she constantly has roaches. In mid-October, maintenance staff were in her apartment for six days trying to fix a leak that left her with no running water.
“I feel like I’m in an apartment building where God forbid there could be an emergency after hours … but I don’t think the manager will get the message,” she said.
A third Warwick resident said she was without heat until Nov. 14. Her daughter returned the space heaters they had received the previous day, since the heat came on. But then they noticed the living room was still without heat.
A third Warwick resident said she was without heat until Nov. 14. She agreed that maintenance never seems to get her messages, and said there was no mention of space heaters after management initially ran out.
“Their lack of communication is stellar,” she said. The hot water has also been lasting only five minutes in her kids’ shower, she said, since at least mid-October. She and her children have had to share her bathroom.
She said under the previous management company, maintenance workers would leave paper notices about whether maintenance had been completed. But now she has no idea whether workers have tried to address the issues.
Two residents said since the new management took over this summer, they have been paying around $245 per month in utilities, even when they didn’t have heat or running water. The third said her October utility bill was $327.
There are also notices around the building that the fire alarms do not work. Residents are concerned about safety, NBC Washington first reported, because some were turning to drastic measures like using their ovens for heat. Fishman said the NBC report was “out of context.”
Miri said that when they do hear fire alarms, many residents don’t tend to leave their apartments. She said people constantly pull false alarms.
Warwick Apartments, LLC. acquired the building in August. Fishman said “we knew when we bought it” that it had a lot of problems.
“Everything takes a little bit of time and we’re just a few months into it,” he added. “We’re doing what we can.”
“Everything takes a little bit of time and we’re just a few months into it,” he said. “We’re doing what we can.”
But with the host of issues the building faces, residents are fed up.
The first and third residents said they received eviction notices (since disputed and cleared) when the new management came in, based on confusion with how to pay their utility bills.
“It doesn’t make it feel like home because you’re always fighting with the building,” said the first resident.
The other residents spoken to for this article agreed, as do plenty of online reviewers on Google Reviews. A week ago, one resident commented, “Hot water doesn’t work and now no water at all so can’t even shower after 12 hour shift at hospital.”
Miri said she has friends who have considered moving to The Warwick, and has steered them away from doing so.
“I am looking to leave. And I would tell anyone who is thinking of moving there to not. It is so awful and horrible, it’s worth it to go anywhere else and pay more,” Miri said. “You don’t feel like you can trust the people in charge of the building to maintain the apartment, to protect you.”
Its sad that this is STILL going on. This is the *only* apartment building in Kemp Mill. The location is great for young families, lots of daycare/preschool and shul options, but ever since Greystar bought the building in 2012, it has gone downhill rapidly.
And Montgomery County *will not* address these issues which clearly violate health and safety issues as well as ripping off tenants under the “shared utilities” scam. When I moved there, utilities were included in the rent because there is no way to charge usage to the individual apartments. So, the management can charge whatever they feel like.
Cockroaches were never a problem until 2012. The fixes were too much for Greystar, apparently, and they unloaded it to another company that cannot or has no interest in getting ahead of the problems the tenants are facing. I do not buy Fishman’s explanations for a moment.
Needless to say, I don’t live in that building anymore.