INDIANAPOLIS — A New Jersey-based not-for-profit company that owns four large apartment complexes with more than 1,100 units in Indianapolis will be forced out of the state’s housing market after a settlement regarding overdue utility bills with Citizens Energy, the City of Indianapolis and the Indiana Attorney General.
”JPC Affordable Housing will be selling their remaining properties in our city and will no longer be doing business here,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett. “Until new ownership is secured for these properties, Citizens Energy will keep the water on and the utilities operational.”
“Defendants agree to sell all properties related to our lawsuit by December 31, 2022. Defendants agree to maintain subject properties pursuant to Indiana law during the settlement period,” said A.G. Todd Rokita.
”We’ve experienced nothing like this ever before,” said Citizens Energy Group President and & CEO Jeffrey Harrison.
JPC Affordable Housing refused to pay more than $2 million of overdue utility bills last winter that accumulated for several months, leading to temporary water shutoffs at Capital Place and Berkley Commons apartments on the city’s southside.
After CEG wrote off $240,000 in debt and the City chipped in $850,000 to partially settle the bills, JPC began making semi-regular payments as recently as Wednesday.
JPC still owes the utility $1.9 million which is subject to the forced sale agreement negotiated by the City and Rokita.
“Citizens expects to receive approximately 80% of JPC’s past due amount,” said Harrison.
Taxpayers may never recover their portion of the bailout as the City will fall in line behind the mortgage holder Wells Fargo and CEG to join other creditors awaiting payout.
”Yeah I guess that would be nefarious,” said Hogsett who sympathized with tenants who paid their rents in good faith only to unfairly face water cutoff or eviction even as JPC operated in bad faith. ”Tenants are held to that standard every single day: honor your lease.”
That’s what Janena Journey said she tried to do when she was approved for the city’s rental assistance program at the Woods at Oak Crossing this summer.
“They got the same email I got the day I got approved,” she said after noting the apartment manager was copied on the response August 1st. “The check that they’re sending out will pay from August to November so my rent is paid until November.”
Journey said she was one of approximately two dozen residents who received eviction notices last Saturday for failure to pay rent, less than one week before the JPC deal with the City and State was announced.
”I believe they did it on purpose. Take all the money they could get before the new landlords come in.”
Like all 3,000 JPC tenants, Journey’s monthly utility costs are rolled into her rent.
“It sucks cuz we don’t know where our money’s going,” she said. “We’re just paying rent and it’s just unprofessional.”
Journey goes to Wayne Township Small Claims Court with her rental assistance documentation in hand next Wednesday morning in an attempt to explain to the judge that she is caught up on her lease agreement despite what Rokita called the “mismanagement” of JPC properties.
”If you feel that your lease isn’t being honored, if you’re not being provided something, there’s assistance programs to seek some legal advice,” was Rokita’s advice when I asked him what Journey should do.
Woods at Oak Crossing management kicked Fox59 News off the complex before we could ask any questions about Journey’s rent.
Deputy Mayor Jeff Bennett said state law needs to be changed to permit tenants to hold back part of their rent in escrow if the landlord violates the lease by providing poor living conditions.
Rokita said while such a proposal could be worth discussion, he favors a statutory crackdown on not-for-profit entities that provide substandard housing and refuse to pay their bills.
The Marion County Health and Hospital Corporation recently filed a complaint with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to halt CEG from turning off the taps at the end of September in attempt to pressure JPC to pay its bills.
Despite announcement of today’s sale agreement, the HHC complaint goes forward as the agency seeks to determine how many utility customers routinely lose water service as the result of overdue bills.