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JEFFERSON CITY — A day after state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed called on Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt to investigate the owners of a south St. Louis apartment complex, the attorney general’s office said it was working to mediate disputes between the company and tenants.

The Post-Dispatch recently reported on moldy conditions and uncollected trash at Southwest Crossing Apartments in south St. Louis and a lawsuit against affiliates of T.E.H. Realty that alleges the company refused to make repairs to the 438-unit Northwinds Apartments in Ferguson.

T.E.H. Realty started buying up cheap apartment complexes in the St. Louis region in 2014 and eventually became one of the area’s largest providers of low-income housing, with more than 2,000 units, many of which are in north St. Louis County. There have been numerous complaints about living conditions at nearly all the properties.

“Our office has been coordinating with state and federal officials regarding the consumer complaints against T.E.H.,” said Chris Nuelle, spokesman for the attorney general’s office. “Our office has received several complaints, and our consumer protection division is seeking to proactively mediate resolutions between tenants and T.E.H.”

He later said the office was working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and that at least seven consumer complaints had been lodged against T.E.H. this year.

“To ensure all Missourians are safe, we continue to urge tenants or anyone else to file a detailed complaint with our consumer protection section by calling the hotline at 800-392-8222 or online at ago.mo.gov,” he said.

Nuelle also said the office was monitoring class-action lawsuits filed in Kansas City and St. Louis.

Michael Fein, a T.E.H. investor who frequents properties in St. Louis, said during a brief interview Wednesday that he was aware of tenant complaints, but he wouldn’t say whether he believed they were true.

“You’re bothering me right now,” he told a reporter before hanging up the phone.

Nasheed, D-St. Louis, on Tuesday urged Schmitt, a Republican, to investigate “deplorable and dangerous” conditions at the Southwest Crossing complex. She said she was not satisfied with the response from Schmitt’s office.

“He needs to step up to the plate and sue,” Nasheed said on Wednesday. “The people living there should not have to be subjected to those conditions.”

Nuelle did not say whether the attorney general’s office was planning a legal fight similar to one launched last year by Schmitt’s predecessor.

Last August, then-Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican, sued the St. Louis Housing Authority, accusing the agency and its management company, McCormack Baron Management Inc., of fraudulently marketing units at the Clinton-Peabody public housing complex as habitable.

Hawley’s office also said the two entities had failed to fix mold and an infestation of mice, and had violated public nuisance laws. The lawsuit was the culmination of a probe by attorney general’s office investigators.

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The investigators interviewed five Clinton-Peabody tenants who described poor conditions. The lawsuit asked for an injunction requiring unit repairs and restitution of rent payments to residents living in uninhabitable units.

The lawsuit also asked for punitive damages, civil penalties and reimbursement of money paid to McCormack Baron, and asked that the defendants cover the cost of the attorney general’s involvement.

“I want him to do exactly what Hawley did,” Nasheed said. “These conditions are far worse than when Hawley sued Clinton-Peabody.”

Schmitt, who took office in January after Hawley’s election to the U.S. Senate, settled the lawsuit in July, saying the company had spent $300,000 on cleanup.

He said the Housing Authority agreed to accept maintenance requests digitally and that McCormack Baron had donated $19,000 to the Deaconess Foundation.

Big apartment owner faces complaints across St. Louis area

T.E.H. Realty acquired a dozen big apartment complexes here since 2014. Those apartments are an important provider of affordable housing in the St. Louis area, but many are in bad shape. The Post-Dispatch has chronicled efforts by tenants and others to address those conditions. 

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