SALISBURY — When Anna Jenkins moved into Villas at Hope Crest in 2016, she was filled with gratitude and optimism.
The veteran and his beloved service dog were homeless before a community agency task force helped him find a unit at the compound at 1314 Lincolnton Road. The Villas at Hope Crest provide accommodation for people over the age of 55 living on a limited income. The property receives funding through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program facilitated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The complex is owned and operated by InterMark Management Corporation, which owns dozens of residential properties of various types throughout the Southeast. InterMark is headquartered in Columbia, South Carolina.
While Jenkins was once proud to call the Villas at Hope Crest home, she and other residents say they are growing frustrated with unmet maintenance requests, lack of on-site supervision and the recent confusion regarding online rent payments.
Kathy Ladd, a resident of Villas at Hope Crest, describes the apartment complex as “a forgotten island”.
“When you express something, nothing gets done,” Ladd said.
Ladd and Jenkins said things got worse when InterMark introduced an online portal through which it asks residents to submit maintenance work orders and pay their monthly rent. Although providing services through an online platform is now a common way of operating the apartments, some residents of the complex aged 55 and over have found it difficult to understand, access or use the new system.
“There are people who don’t do the internet,” Ladd said. “There are people who don’t have Wi-Fi. There are people who are not computer savvy. They used to call the office and leave a message, but the messages are no longer answered.
Some residents have family members who helped them access the portal, but others don’t have relatives nearby to do the same, Ladd said.
The online portal system was announced in early December. Shortly after, Ladd said several residents confronted the apartment manager about frustrations with the gate. The manager left the resort after this incident, according to Ladd.
Sylvia Ogni, who has lived at The Villas in Hope Crest since 2014, said she was told InterMark would be accepting physical rent payments at the local office for January because the portal was not working properly. Ogni slipped her check into the office drop box as she had several months before, only to be surprised a few days later to receive a notice that she had not paid rent. As a result, she was assessed late fees and told that eviction proceedings would be initiated if she failed to pay.
Ladd’s brother, who also lives at the Villas in Hope Crest, was also assessed a late fee.
Cynthia Smith said her 92-year-old mother, who has lived at the resort since March, was equally shocked when she received similar notice in early January. The notice came despite Smith submitting his mother’s rent payment in the slot outside reception.
Ladd said she believed the notices came because no one from InterMark came to the office to collect physical rent payments.
Since then, Smith and Ladd have been assured by an InterMark representative that no late fees will be charged and that residents should not worry about the notices they have received. Ladd said physical rent payments in the drop box have since been collected. Still, Ladd worries about what could happen when residents try to pay their rent in February.
Complaints go beyond the portal. The three residents also say submitted work orders for smoke detectors, hallway lights and personal lights inside their units were not carried out. When they attempted to contact an InterMark representative, there was little response.
Office hours at the Villas at Hope Crest are listed as Monday and Wednesday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. However, signs posted on the door in early January informed residents that the office was closed due to COVID-19. Another sign told residents not to knock on the door as the office would only be operating by appointment during two weeks. The sign urged residents to call and leave a voicemail or email management.
Even before the last property manager left, Jenkins said management turnover was something that had plagued the Villas in Hope Crest for years. Jenkins said there have been about 12 different managers since she started living at the resort.
Smith said InterMark has been unable to keep a consistent manager in the on-site office and no one has been there for residents for the past month.
Security has also become a concern for residents. Ladd said there had been two recent incidents in which a non-resident was causing trouble on the premises, prompting him to call 911 to seek police assistance. At one point, Ladd said the person had vandalized property in the hallways of the apartment. On the other, the person was drinking alcohol in the common area of the complex.
“It gets dangerous,” Ladd said.
After receiving an email from a resident of the complex, Salisbury Code Services Manager Michael Cotilla visited the villas at Hope Crest last week. The complaint received by Cotilla concerned security in the apartments. Cotilla said he observed that the doors to the facility were locked and appeared to be secure. Prior to this email, Cotilla said he was not aware of any code enforcement issues at the apartments.
Despite multiple attempts, InterMark management could not be reached for comment on this story.