'Rent strike' underway over St. Louis apartment conditions

Protesters outside Southwest Crossings apartments
Photo credit KMOX/Michael Calhoun
By NewsRadio 1120 KMOX

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) -- Residents of an apartment complex owned by T.E.H. Realty are refusing to pay rent until the alleged slumlord improves conditions.

"My stove went out because I had to use my stove to heat up my apartment because my heat wasn't working," resident Carmen Dinwiddie said.

Hers is one of countless stories from apartments in the area owned by T.E.H. The company is one of the biggest local owners of low-income housing.

The company is already under scrutiny by HUD.

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley recently toured one of its troubled properties.

I’ve spent this afternoon at Bridgeport Crossing Apartments in St. Louis County. This is the neighborhood owned by TEH Realty, which this week I asked US Attorney & HUD to investigate. After seeing myself I can say conditions are shocking & landlord must be held accountable pic.twitter.com/nUKiIgVWR1

— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) November 23, 2019

The furnace is a wreck. She has spent hundreds of dollars of her own trying to get it fixed, and has been scammed multiple times. Landlord is happy to take her rent, but won’t return calls or send maintenance pic.twitter.com/zNLp2kEeId

— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) November 23, 2019

But renters at Southwest Crossing apartments are taking action on their own.

Terrell Woodson was among those out marching outside the complex at Germania and I-55. Signs had slogans including 'Rent strike for safe housing.'

"The living conditions are really horrible," he said. "We have people living with mold, that's living with holes in their kitchen and bathroom ceilings. We have people living with no heat, no air, no working appliances."

He says 30 units have been emptied and condemned because of that mold.

Dinwiddie says she and her 7-year-old are the only tenants remaining in her particular building at Southwest Crossing.

She describes a pour of water from the kitchen ceiling when it rains. Her furnace is broken, so she and her son stay warm with the help of two donated space heaters.

"We actually cannot sleep in the bedroom because of the mold," she says, so she and her son have been "sleeping in the living room on the couch trying to stay warm with multiple covers on top of us."

They were able to eat Thanksgiving dinner despite that broken stove because of donated gift cards, she said.

KMOX's Michael Calhoun asked Woodson: "Has all of the attention - politicians are taking notice - has it helped?"

He replied: "I hope so. I sure hope they're paying attention."

The city has already cleared trash from the site. Renters want to make sure officials continue to pay attention. They'll be protesting on the sidewalk all week.

Renters say they'll write their checks once there's a new owner for the complex and once their 30 demands are met, including safer premises and more qualified workers.