INDIANAPOLIS — The City of Indianapolis has given the East Coast-based owners of a troubled northside apartment complex less than a week to clean up its act or face a civil lawsuit.

“The City of Indianapolis and the Marion County Department of Public Health are giving notice,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett, sending a message to the owners and residents of Lakeside Pointe at Nora Apartments at 9000 North College Avenue. “If property owners do not make real progress toward fixing health and safety violations by January 31st, 2022, we will jointly file suit under the Indiana state nuisance law.”

For years, we’ve documented the plight of residents who complained about trash, water damage, fires and a lack of heating and air conditioning. “To keep up with the level of complaints, a housing inspector visits this property every day and, in fact, a Housing Division sweep of this property in 2019 found 600 violations, some of which remain unresolved today,” said Paul Babcock, CEO of the Health & Hospitals Corporation. “The Marion County Public Health Department has on average 60 cases in court at any given time related to the Lakeside Pointe Apartment complex.”

A letter signed by Hogsett and Babcock warns the complex owners, Fox Lake AHF, Inc., that without significant progress toward resolving ongoing building and public health issues at its site, the City will file a lawsuit next week requiring prompt remediation of the nuisance, recovery of emergency services costs and attorney’s fees as well as file additional Housing Code Violations. The City expects the owners to be represented at two pending Demolition Order hearings in February as the result of recent fires at the complex.

“Property owners are obligated to do more than cash rent checks. At the very least, the property that they maintain and own must be habitable,” said Hogsett. “There must be consequences for the significant financial cost to Indianapolis taxpayers as a result of the owner’s failure to maintain properties.”

One longtime neighbor said he is guardedly optimistic that the threat of lawsuit and additional costs may motivate the owner to clean up Lakeside Pointe at Nora. “I have hope that good things are gonna happen,” said John Brent. “I once heard Don Henley in a song say, ‘You can steal more money with a briefcase than you can with a gun,’ and that’s exactly what these slumlords are doing. They’re stealing money out of peoples’ pockets.”

City officials admit the anticipated lawsuit is an attempt to “push the envelope” on unsuccessful legal remedies they’ve tried in the past as well send a call to the General Assembly to tighten up state law to protect residents from landlords who refuse to maintain their properties. Current state law limits the City’s ability to collect damages for the emergency services, such as police and fire responses, to a property such as Lakeside Pointe at Nora.

The owner of the complex has already been sued by the Indiana Attorney General alleging gross mismanagement. There was no response to a request for comment from the complex’ management team and ownership.