Pay Bills

Problem Solvers Find Homeowners Get Tax Breaks Without Paying the Bills

MEMPHIS, Tenn. –A Memphis apartment complex owner who suffered repeated utility cuts due to nonpayment is also getting municipal tax breaks, according to a Problem Solvers investigation.

David Jackson and Gloria Cochran alerted troubleshooters when their power went out at the Garden View Apartments on Whitaker Drive in Whitehaven.

“I have breathing apparatus in there. I can’t plug them in and use it,” Cochran said.

According to MLGW officials, they cut off Garden View apartments for non-payment. WREG troubleshooters got notices showing the warnings to the owner, Garden View LLC, at one point over $10,000 overdue.

“It’s just not right,” Jackson said.

“I think they’re sleep dealers,” Cochran said.

The problem solvers tried to get answers, but someone from the management office said they couldn’t talk.

Eventually, MLGW told us that the new owners never changed the account to their name. The mistake illustrates mismanagement that tenants say goes beyond bills.

“When I go to the trash, I have to step over the trash to put my trash in the trash,” Cochran said.

She added that she paid out of pocket to have the resort’s lawn mowed.

Finding the owners proved complicated; according to Shelby County property records, the “Garden View LLC” is registered to an apartment address in Brooklyn, New York. Documents from the Tennessee Secretary of State show that the owners of Garden View also owned several other properties in Memphis, including Sunrise Villas in Winchester.

Maykala Christian lives in Sunrise with her children. She said her utilities had also been disabled.

“That’s what we have to deal with,” she said.

Turns out MLGW also sent outage notices to Sunrise.

“Everyone pays their bill, that’s good, but we still have to suffer because of the complex not doing their part,” said Christian.

Documents also show that landlords receive tax relief; they identify Shimon Weinberger and Matty Wercberger of Brooklyn, New York as the owners, who potentially save thousands of dollars a year thanks to a Memphis Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board PILOT.

The Problem Solvers obtained the board inspections of the Sunrise Villas complex. They discussed some improvements, but focused more on the problems citing “garbage on the ground” and a “backed-up sewer line.” Inspectors ultimately concluded that “the property looks dirty and unkempt”.

Memphis Board of Health, Education, and Housing Facilities the members declined our request for an interview, but answered questions through their attorney via email. We asked if these circumstances met their expectations.

“The Commission’s external monitors visited the Sunrise Terrace property and found deficiencies which are still being monitored. The tenant PILOT has indicated that they are working to remedy the deficiencies and that the property has not yet been declared in default, ”said the council solicitor.

He clarified the Health, Education and Housing Council’s purpose by calling it “an incentive to facilitate affordable housing” and said they were “far from being a ‘panacea’.” In the past, when the council cut ties with property owners, it ended up hurting tenants, he said.

When we finally contacted foreign owners Wercberger and Weinberger on the phone, they told us they didn’t own any property in our area and hung up.

Meanwhile, the day after we visited Garden View, the utilities were turned back on.

But for tenants who say they pay on time each month, it’s hard to accept that it’s their landlords who get the tax breaks.

“They shouldn’t have it because it’s a lot of work to do. I don’t see them putting a lot of work and money into what it should be used for. These apartments should be better than they are,” said Christian.

“Slumlords,” Cochran said. “I wish I had a maintenance man when I needed one, my grounds cut.”

The Health, Education and Housing Facilities Council says it continues to update policies and procedures for better oversight.

The Memphis code enforcement cited the Garden View property after calls from residents who spoke with problem solvers. So far, the owners have failed to show up for multiple Environmental Court hearings.