(Sept. 27, 2019) After three months of uncertainty, residents of Pleasant Manor in Snow Hill found some closure last Thursday, after meeting with the property owner.
“It was a really good meeting,” said Nancy McCaig, chief attorney at Legal Aid Maryland. “It gave the residents an opportunity to ask questions, express their concerns. It was the first time the residents heard that there is a plan to repair and renovate.”
Almost four months ago, the Severn Companies, a parent company of Pleasant Manor Acquisition LLC, bought the property, and began enacting new policies, such as a rent increase and a pet ban.
Pleasant Manor largely caters to older, disabled residents, and many could not afford the jump in rent from $338 a month, to $450.
Pets were initially banned, but later the policy changed and residents could have pets — after paying a $650 deposit.
In late August, the tenants formed a tenant council, and, with the help of Maryland Legal Aid, wrote a letter to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and to the Community Development Administration (CDA), describing what they alleged was mistreatment and lack of communication.
They sent a letter to the Severn Companies as well, which resulted in Arthur “Jib” Edwards Jr., president of the company, meeting the tenants to discuss the issues face to face.
Edwards declined to comment on the meeting.
McCaig said the Severn Companies would seek funding from the CDA, and begin work in two phases.
“The first phase is going to be the big infrastructure, the roof, the windows, patching things like holes in the floors,” she said. “The second phase might come down the road, maybe next year … which would be additional rehabilitation of the building and the units.”
McCaig said Edwards backed down on the rent increase, and the residents would go back to paying $338 a month until January 2020.
Pets apparently were not heavily discussed during the meeting, although a new pet policy would be enacted, and the deposit fee would decrease to $250.
Despite a successful meeting, McCaig said the road ahead would be long as the needs at Pleasant Manor were tremendous.
“One of the problems that the owners have … is that they’re starting from scratch,” McCaig said. “They need to develop information on each tenant to establish eligibility. Normally, there’s a tenant file, there’s income information … they have nothing. For some reason the prior owner did not retain good records.”
Members of CDA visited the property on Friday to begin cost evaluations for repairs, which could take several months.
Nonetheless, despite an uncertain timeline for funding and repairs, the future at Pleasant Manor seems to be heading in a different direction.
“It was a good opportunity for the tenants and the owner to have a face-to-face [conversation] … and acknowledge that there is a lot to be done there,” McCaig said.