City finalizing $650,000-plus deal that restored water to troubled properties

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Five days after announcing a deal with Citizens Energy Group to restore water service to tenants at two south-side Indianapolis apartment complexes, city officials said they’re planning to recoup the $650,000-plus bill, but a lack of communication with the properties’ owners could complicate matters.

Citizens disconnected water service to Berkley Commons and Capital Place Apartments last Thursday over unpaid bills, which Deputy Corporation Counsel Matt Giffin said this Wednesday totaled $1.3 million. The 544-unit Berkley Commons, built in 1964, is at 8201 Madison Ave., while the 324-unit Capital Place, built in 1969, is at 4100 Continental Court.

Mayor Joe Hogsett announced the city had reached a deal with Citizens to restore service in a statement late last Friday. At a regularly held news conference Wednesday, Giffin said the city paid more than half of the total bill upfront as part of the deal and was working on finalizing the terms—including language about recovering the money, and assurances the complexes would pay their own future bills.

“What we want to make clear, and what Citizens wants to make clear, is that this is not forgiven on the part of the landlord,” Giffin said. “This is not dead; it’s [not] going to go away. The city or Citizens is going to do everything we can to recover this amount that’s owed.”

But that’s easier said than done when the city hasn’t had direct contact with the owners.

Property records list the owners as Berkley Commons IN LLC and the Foundation for Affordable, Rental Housing Inc. But they’re linked to the same ownership group that’s behind the trouble-plagued Lakeside Pointe and Fox Club apartment complexes, officials say—the group just owns each property under different limited liability companies.

Giffin and mayor’s office spokesman Mark Bode said the city has been in touch with the ownership group regarding a Lakeside Pointe-specific lawsuit threat and potential ownership switch, but communication for Berkley Commons and Capital Place has been limited to Citizens.

Giffin said the city would try to avoid “setting a precedent that this is a bailout option for every landlord that’s failing to pay its bills” by quickly and “aggressively” moving to recover the payment. Later in the conference, he declined to give further details when asked if the city would pursue action beyond that.

Hogsett said he and Citizens President and CEO Jeffrey Harrison had spoken Friday and come to an “informal understanding that he and I will work together” to avoid similar situations “whenever they arise.”

The deal is expected to be finalized this week, according to Bode.

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5 thoughts on “City finalizing $650,000-plus deal that restored water to troubled properties

  1. Real easy, have the tenants pay directly to the city to pay off the cost of paying the water bill and make sure tenants get a receipt. Contact federal government if any are on section 8 have the funds paid to city until all funds recovered.

    1. That makes no sense. Why should the tenants have to pay what the landlord is supposed to pay? That’s just penalizing the victim. Of course, Citizen’s Energy and the City of Indianapolis have been victimized and should do everything in their power to recoup the money, and either get these landlords on the right path, or take legal action to oust those owners.
      I agree with Charles B. that the legislature is on the wrong side of these issues. The landlords don’t need the protection, the tenants do!

  2. Yet Indiana’s State Legislature keeps on passing landLORD protection laws . Making Indiana the best State for the worst landLORDS to exploit their tenants.

  3. Our laws clearly need immediate changes if a landlord can continue to collect rent with the water shut off, while the rest of the City taxpayers pay the landlord’s bill for them. This agreement with Citizens should include the City of Indianapolis collecting the tenants’ rent that would otherwise go to the landlord until the full bill is paid off. $1.3 million / 868 units = ~$1,500 per unit. I’m guessing that’s probably about two months rent. There should be a simple provision in state law that if a landlord fails to provide basic requirements of the lease, such as running water, the tenants can pay that bill in lieu of rent to the landlord, and there can be no eviction or other adverse actions from the landlord. Is that really so hard for the Indiana legislature to understand and implement?

  4. This Jersey based giant slumlord now owes the city 1.3mil. The city should first demand repayment within two months. Second, the city needs to place a lien on the property. Third, when the dirtbag company fails to pay in two months (inevitable), the city will have every right to enforce the lien and seize ownership of the property. That would work in process just like sheriff sale taxes-owed private properties.Once the city owns the property, they can hire whoever they chose to redevelop or demolish it, or sell it to whoever they want to partner with to fix it up. And it needs to be a developer who isn’t going to try to “flip it” and gentrify it into $1300 luxo condos. It needs to be basic well constructed good-value housing.