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Southern Dallas apartments investigated by city for “life safety issues”

Residents say hazards have persisted for years. The city says code compliance inspected and discovered property violations that have lingered.

By Andrew Little

The City Attorney’s Office
The City Attorney’s Office is investigating what it says are dangerous conditions at Frances Place Apartments, a multi-family complex in Dallas, on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. / Photo Credit: Liesbeth Powers / Staff Photographer

The City Attorney’s Office is investigating what it says are dangerous conditions at low-income apartment homes in Southern Dallas, where at least one fire has occurred and property code violations are being left unfixed.

The complex is Frances Place Apartments, a multi-family complex identifiable by its sky blue paint and gray shingled roof that sags in some places. Many of its units are vacant, boarded up with plywood.

“The City Attorney’s Office is aware that life safety issues exist on the property that violate the minimum property standards,” said city spokesperson Jennifer Brown, who did not specify what the violations were.

The city first became aware of the conditions at the complex when Dallas fire responded to an apartment fire on the property, Brown said, at which point code compliance inspected the unit to assess the damage and discovered property violations.

apartment building
Scorch marks run along the side of an apartment building at Frances Place Apartments, a multi-family complex in Dallas, on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. A recent fire alerted the City Attorney’s Office to what it says are dangerous conditions at the complex. / Photo Credit: Liesbeth Powers / Staff Photographer

“Officers have inspected several times since April 2022, noting minimal progress to address the violations,” she said Friday. “As a result, it is clear that escalated enforcement is necessary to ensure that this property owner takes seriously her obligation to provide tenants a safe and healthy place to live.”

The property owner, which according to Dallas property records is JDA Community Investments LLC, could not be reached after repeated attempts.

Multiple residents told The Dallas Morning News that more than one fire has erupted in vacant apartments in recent months, of which there are at least fifteen scattered around the property. But most emphasized Frances Place’s living conditions more generally, citing hazards like uneven stairs, plastic or plexiglass windows that don’t open, caved in ceilings and poor plumbing.

Eric Jefferson lived at Frances Place for three years, during which time there was a “whole bunch of stuff” that needed repairs, including his bathtub, loose stairs, and windows, many of which were plastic until recently, he said.

Vacant units boarded
Vacant units boarded up with plywood and plastic material windows at Frances Place Apartments, a multi-family complex in Dallas, on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. / Photo Credit: Liesbeth Powers / Staff Photographer

“Matter of fact, still got the same old windows up there now,” he said, pointing over to the apartment where he used to live. “If you lean on them you’ll fall right through.”

The management has been installing new windows throughout the property — retail stickers are still attached to most — but many old ones have yet to be swapped out.

Jefferson’s long-time friend Rock Bray lived in the complex for six years before deciding he’d move somewhere else. Management dragged their feet on repairing things like jammed doors and air conditioning units, he said.

He pointed to a gap between a window and the wall just above it.

“That’s not right,” he said. “We’re not even carpenters and we know that!”

Jefferson and Bray, as well as current residents, said that ceilings caved in on some people during the recent heavy rainfall and that some have not been fully repaired.

Shingles hang from the roof of Frances Place
Shingles hang from the roof of Frances Place Apartments, a multi-family complex in Dallas, on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. / Photo Credit: Liesbeth Powers / Staff Photographer

“That complex has been run down like that for years,” said Sharrell Bell, who moved in last October. “Everything is half done.”

Bell was evicted from her unit in August after managers told her she was disturbing other residents and business operations, and telling others that management was harassing her, allegations management said were made in bad faith, according to her eviction notice.

“Everyone is struggling over there,” she said.

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