Eagle Pointe Apartments in West St. Paul

Dueling Complaints and Evictions Mount at West St. Paul Apartment Complex

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Eviction notices have gone out at a West St. Paul apartment complex in the midst of complaints about property maintenance and safety. Residents reported broken elevators and going without heat all winter, claims management denied.

Built in 1972, Eagle Point Apartments were purchased last fall by Monument Capital Management, the investment firm of baseball legend Alex Rodriguez, for $30 million. Residents say the new management company began making changes last winter, including ending a flexible payment program and adding additional fees.

“There’s going to be a lot of families of color displaced,” resident Kimetha “KaeJae” Johnson said in a video posted to social media. Johnson is the founder of the nonprofit Residents of Color Collective and a candidate for City Council. “This isn’t a race issue, this is a survival issue.”

Resident Complaints

There are a myriad of complaints from tenants about Eagle Pointe. Some issues are addressed eventually—a roofing company was on site last week. But the elevators often get stuck and heat is often cited as a problem.

“So the majority of the winter we had no heat,” said Tiffany Morris, who has lived in Eagle Pointe for three years. “Most of the time I had to open my stove and set it at 400 degrees because the heat was just not working at all.” 

“The heat is on and off in our apartments—ever since we moved in,” said Maria Rosas, who has lived in the building for five years. She said this past winter the heat finally started working. “We still had to use the space heater a couple times, but it’s finally a little warmer.”

Monument Capital Management tells a different story: “Since Monument’s acquisition of the community in September of last year, virtually every call related to heat was resolved within 24 hours,” a statement from the company read. “If parts were needed, residents were provided with space heaters until parts arrived.”

“We spent the whole winter using our oven,” said Johnson who talked with property management multiple times about the problem. “And I never heard anything about a space heater.”

The heat is just the beginning of the complaints.

Sometimes the elevator gets stuck or won’t respond when the call button is pushed, according to residents. Someone has to go to the actual elevator and bring it up to that floor. “The elevator, that’s been a consistent problem,” Morris said. “For the last two years it’s been down a majority of the time. Now I’m pregnant and I’m going up and down the stairs. I’ve got older people on my floor and every day they’re struggling to get down the stairs.”

Again, Monument Capital Management responded in a statement: “Since acquiring the community in September, one elevator service call has been made. The repair company was called the same day. The part needed was no longer manufactured. As such, an alternate part was sourced and installed immediately upon arrival. Further, as part of Monument’s established improvement plan for the community, both elevators will be modernized.”

“That elevator was down for a whole month,” Johnson said in response. Just this past weekend the elevator got stuck for one of Johnson’s neighbors who is in a wheelchair. He called the office and they said he’d have to wait half an hour for someone to come bring the elevator. Johnson heard the complaints and went to get the elevator herself. 

Johnson also pointed out a broken window lock that enabled homeless people to enter the building. She’s found them sleeping in the laundry room, halls, and the garage. While the window has since been fixed, Monument denies receiving reports about homeless people in the building. 

Additional complaints range from minor to catastrophic. “Sometimes the washers don’t work,” Rosas said. “I’ve asked to be reimbursed and no one’s gotten back to us about that.” Residents also complain about people smoking in the building and drug deals happening in broad daylight. The laundry rooms also don’t have fire extinguishers according to residents, which are required by fire code. A leaky roof caused the ceiling to collapse on a third-floor apartment, forcing the family there to move out. The water also leaked into Johnson’s second-floor unit.

Coming Evictions

While broken elevators, a lack of heat, and a collapsing roof are serious problems, having a place to live at all next month can be a more pressing concern. Many residents fear eviction as Monument takes over and raises rents.

Johnson said she witnessed office staff signing a hefty stack of eviction notices. She even asked if that’s what they were and staff confirmed they were eviction notices. Johnson estimates there were 75 notices, which would account for more than a third of the complex’s 216 units. 

“The statement about the volume of evictions is simply not accurate,” the statement from Monument said. “During the month of May there were multiple eviction notices filed for non-payment, however not a number that comes anywhere close to 75.”

Johnson said she’s spoken directly with 10 people who are being evicted, and has heard about at least 10 more. Many people being evicted did not want to speak on the record. 

“I’m probably at risk of being evicted by next month,” said Morris. She starts a new job this week and the delay in getting paid means she won’t have enough for rent. The flexible pay program that Monument ended would have allowed her to pay what she could and get caught up. 

A revolving door of office staff over the past few months has complicated things further.

“I actually had things worked out with the past manager,” Morris said. “But now that there are new people in the office, that agreement is off the table.” She had also talked to management in April about moving to a new unit and was promised her rent would stay the same. But now that unit has been renovated and the rent has gone up $400 to $1,500 per month, more than Morris can afford.

Monument noted in a statement that they’ve worked with more than 33 residents, in conjunction with rental assistance programs, to keep those residents in their apartments.

While Johnson isn’t among the residents being evicted, Eagle Pointe is revoking her lease renewal. Johnson said it’s in retaliation for her outspoken complaints about problems at the complex. Monument wouldn’t comment on her specific case, but said in general: “It is not our policy to renew a resident lease agreement if a rent payment is behind, there is a history of late payments, or other lease violations.” 

Reporting Problems

Johnson said that the problems at Eagle Pointe persist because it’s a building full of vulnerable people. It is people who for one reason or another are afraid to report the problems, who don’t have resources to fight, and at the end of the day are just trying to survive. 

“I was working two jobs, so it wasn’t anything I went to management about,” Morris said about not reporting her heat being out. “I tried to stay out of the way. I don’t want issues. I don’t want problems. I just did what I had to do.”

While Morris didn’t report her heating problems to management, plenty of other people did. If a management company isn’t responding appropriately to health and safety issues like heat being out, the city can step in—if they know about it.

“I wish that had been reported to us right away because that’s something we can act on immediately,” West St. Paul City Manager Nate Burkett said. 

Burkett encouraged renters to contact the city and report any problems. You can call the city’s main number, 651-552-4100, or you can use the code violation form. Reports can be anonymous (the online form asks for a name, but it’s not a required field). 

“I understand residents in multi-family buildings may be worried about reprisals if they report something, but there are supposed to be protections in place,” Burkett said. “Though I can understand the practicalities of that may be more complicated.”

Bigger Picture

While Johnson is fighting her own battle to keep her home, she’s more concerned about others being evicted.

“It has nothing to do with me because I can afford to move out,” Johnson said. “But you don’t know how many people come to my door for food, who are crying, whose babies I have to hold in the hallway because they’re having a mental breakdown. No, I can’t afford to leave this building.”

As the founder of ROCC, Johnson runs a food shelf, offers youth programming with Dodge Nature Center, shares resources, and more. But that work happens during the day. Much of Johnson’s work happens after hours, literally stepping between blows in domestic violence situations, dealing with people who are suicidal, or simply carrying groceries for an elderly neighbor when the elevator is out.

“I sit in hallways and hold babies at three o’clock in the morning,” Johnson said. “No one is dealing with the domestic violence situation. What is going to happen to the woman who gets beat all the time? That is my issue. That is my fight.”

In 2020, a domestic dispute turned to murder in the parking lot at Eagle Pointe, which happened in front of Rosas’ car. While domestic violence incidents are not something Eagle Pointe can control, Rosas expects a more proactive response.

“We’ve heard nothing from management,” said one resident. “Which is odd because in apartments I’ve lived in before, management was on top of that—’What happened? What can we do? What do we need to do to solve this issue so it doesn’t happen again?’ And here, it’s like they brush it off.”

Looking Forward

With half the population of West St. Paul in rental housing, the existing rental ordinances are fairly strong. But Burkett said he’s been asked to look into improvements and will likely start with the slate of rental rights measures recently passed in St. Paul. Measures like capping security deposits or reducing the maximum late fee a complex can charge would give residents some help.

But those changes, along with St. Paul’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance that caps rent increases at 3% per year, may just move the problem elsewhere.

“Many rental companies change the terms of their contracts dramatically,” said Teri Lazaretti, a landlord coordinator with Dakota County Social Services. “Landlords are finding other solutions or taking actions that they may not have otherwise taken.”

The moratorium on evictions during the pandemic has also soured many landlord/tenant relationships, according to Lazaretti.

“Overall, Dakota County is seeing a full eviction court calendar,” Lazaretti said. That seems to be happening across Minnesota. While evictions did flatline during the pandemic, the most recent data from Legal Services Corporation shows a spike in Dakota County that’s higher than anything in the last five years. (The data report runs through the week of May 9, too early to reflect the Eagle Pointe evictions Johnson alleges.)

Chart showing weekly eviction filings in Dakota County, Minnesota between June 1, 2017 and May 15, 2022, with a fairly steady rate before the pandemic, flatlining during the pandemic, and steadily rising in 2022 with a big spike in the last week.
Weekly eviction filings in Dakota County from June 1, 2017 to May 15, 2022.

Residents with a short-term financial hardship who are facing eviction can contact Dakota County Emergency Assistance, CAP Agency, or Neighbors, Inc. Emergency Assistance for help. If residents need legal help, they can contact Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services. The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office has also published the Landlords and Tenants Rights and Responsibilities guide, which may help clarify outstanding questions.

Eagle Pointe’s rental license is up for renewal in July, so the city will be taking a close look at the property, but Burkett noted they need to hear specific issues from renters so they know what to inspect. 

“If you don’t live it you won’t really understand the underlying issues,” Johnson said. But she did pledge that her work would continue: “Even if I have to move out, I’m still going to do ROCC work.”

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One comment

  1. Lol
    I know for a fact that’s a lie .
    I’m a resident here and the maintenance crew we had before Monument took over did their very best to take care of us did the heat go out yes it did but what they’re not telling you is the space heaters they gave out to the residence.
    To me I feel like she’s the problem everything was OK in her world because she had the party room for her feeding the homeless or whatever is it that she was doing mind you she never paid for it … she basically bullied The last staff let her have it cause they didn’t want to deal with her.
    And she should show you the video that there is of her belittling a new employee that just started working literally yelling at this grown woman at the top of her lungs and running for office?? when people were shooting here and crime was up I didn’t see her marching up and down trying to Unite the residence that was dealing with the violence that was here, she was nowhere to be found but the moment someone took the party room from her now she wants to yell and scream and how bad monument is I myself as a resident of over eight years living here has seen the dramatic change that monument has been doing not everything can be done overnight but they are trying . Unlike the last owners that were here. It’s funny how she’s pointing out everything that’s wrong with the building but why did she wait till now??? Why because things are not going her way!

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