Salt Lake City prosecutors have filed 15 misdemeanor charges against Carol Lunt, the owner and landlord of the Georgia Apartments building, which was deemed unsafe for habitation by the city’s fire marshal this week.
Dozens of residents in the 42-unit apartment building, located on 2100 South and 200 East, are being displaced as a result.
Aside from the safety hazards, police have said that drugs, violence and trespassing had become growing problems at the location over the past two years.
The complex came to the attention of the Salt Lake City Fire Department’s radar in August 2017, said Capt. Adam Archuleta, a department spokesman.
Issues in the building include out-of-service fire extinguishers, belongings left out in the halls and exposed wiring.
“Some accommodations were being made, so we felt like there was a good relationship, in good faith, that the property owner was making some progress,” Archuleta said, but not all the issues were addressed to extent that they needed to be.
Inspectors returned to the complex every couple of months to check on the property, but instead of finding the problems addressed, more fire hazards would pop up, Archuleta said.
One of the most pressing concerns was the complex’s wet sprinkler system in which the water in pipes would freeze during the winter, Archuleta said.
In September, the owner Lunt was removed from the city’s good landlord program. She was the third landlord to be suspended from the program in its 7-year history, according to the city.
Finally this week, the fire marshal “red tagged” the complex for code and safety violations. Residents were told they had until Thursday to vacate the apartments, but that date was later pushed back to Saturday to give residents more time to find housing, Archuleta said.
Aaron Hirtler lived at the complex for seven years. He finished packing his belonging on Thursday evening. The patterned tile in his unit impressed him and it was proof to him that Lunt was trying to improve conditions.
“When I moved in, she said she was working on stuff and I saw her working on stuff,” Hirtler, 34, said. “I’ve said for a long time that I loved my apartment and I hated the complex.”
Hirtler, who has a criminal conviction for a sex offense, said his housing options are limited, so for now, he’s couchsurfing until he can find another landlord willing to take him in.
Hirtler’s friend, Maggie Grimsyer, was there helping him finish up. Having lived with Hirtler in his one-bedroom apartment for a few years when she had nowhere else to go, she understands his predicament. Grimsyer described the beauty she saw within the complex’s external ugliness.
“There was a lady that would come out, who has beautiful silver hair, who was tutoring kids how to read and they would often sit out in the bench after school,” Grimsyer said. “We know a bunch of different neighbors and they are mostly really good people, some of them have just had a rough time.”
During this time, the residents have counted on numerous city and county groups and nonprofits like the Other Side Academy who are helping them move their belongings and find housing.
“It’s been really hard, but I have seen a lot of grace,” Hirtler said.