Earlier this year, 35 buildings at the Champaign Park Apartments were condemned — prompting two lawsuits filed by the city against the owners after Champaign was left to rehouse displaced tenants.
Champaign government was left to temporarily rehouse these residents due to negligence from owners. Since January, two lawsuits have been filed against the owners by the city to receive reimbursement for damages.
The complex’s owner — New York-based Champaign Apartments Owner LLC — is under a court order to repay the city for hotel costs incurred from rehousing residents who had to vacate. It has repaid $167,000 so far and is expected to have another $81,594 paid to the city in early April next year.
The LLC is run by Michael Chetrit, co-founder at Chetrit Ventures in New York. The owners are currently facing another lawsuit in Cleveland, Ohio. After initially agreeing to a phone interview, the owners did not return multiple requests for comment last month.
The condemnation came after a comprehensive inspection revealed a series of structural deficiencies and safety hazards that posed an imminent threat to the well-being of residents. Cracks in load-bearing walls, compromised fire safety systems and electrical issues were among the critical concerns raised by inspectors.
CU-CitizenAccess previously reported the apartment complex had 170 complaints raised against it by tenants between Jan. 1, 2021 and mid February this year, just over two years.
There are still over 300 units condemned out of 393 total units.
Assistant City Attorney Nancy Rabel said the owners have still not admitted damages. Rabel said one hearing is set for next May, and much is left to be resolved.
Public court case information can be searched on the Champaign Circuit Clerk website. The case numbers for the lawsuits are “2022CH000049” with April 16, 2024 listed as its next court date and “2022CH000051” with May 14, 2024 listed as its next court date.
Rabel said the code is “very specific” as to what would be a violation and the lawyers of the owners are trying to find loopholes around it.
“What we would be going to trial on is whether or not those properties that were condemned violated the code and then if they did, what penalties or fines would be,” Rabel said.
Dustin Schingl, a resident of the apartments, had his building condemned. He said he had his ceiling collapse two months after he moved in. He said he had to wait weeks for maintenance to look at his collapsed ceiling, and said some other issues weren’t addressed, like mold.
“The mold in the bathroom was such a simple fix,” he said. “All they had to do was just scrape out the old caulking and replace it so that the mold wasn’t spreading. They didn’t treat the actual mold and the ceiling. They just covered it right back up. They didn’t fix the problem. They didn’t do anything.”
Due to the owners not responding to complaints like Schingl’s, city officials had to take matters into their own hands. They decided to condemn the building, prioritizing the safety of residents. The condemnation order means that residents must vacate the premises immediately.
The residents have still not been moved back into the apartments.
“We still have over 300 units condemned,” Rabel said. “Whether it’s an insurance issue or whether it’s a funding issue, they have been very, very slow to fix things.”