Maintenance Woes Irk Colonial Point Tenants

08Aug09

Claim that Carabetta Management is unresponsive
colonial_point_ws
Residents of the Colonial Point apartment building on Audubon Rd. in Wakefield are not happy. They say that the building is poorly maintained and that their concerns are ignored by the company that owns and manages the building. And they point out that many of these issues are not new and have been going on for years.

The tenants’ grievances include a main entry door that currently locks only intermittently, parking areas that are poorly lit or have no lighting at all, a swimming pool that’s been closed for months and a trash room smell that was so bad last month when the building’s air conditioning went out for four days that the Health Department had to be called in.

But the overarching complaint voiced by frustrated tenants at the Colonial Point Apartments is that Carabetta Management Co., the firm that owns and manages the high rise, is unresponsive to their ongoing concerns. Tenants say that they call and leave messages, but typically get no response.

Repeated calls to Carabetta’s Revere office seeking comment for this story were not returned.

A committee of tenants has been formed to try and address the problems at Colonial Point and they claim that a large majority of renters have joined the tenants’ association and endorse the committee’s goal of improving conditions in the building.

According to Carabetta’s web site, the Colonial Point building consists of 176 one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Online rental agencies list the one bedroom apartments at $1,285 per month and two bedroom units at $1,425.

Carabetta owns and manages apartment buildings in Connecticut and Massachusetts, including Malden Towers in Malden, Water’s Edge in Revere and Colonial Point in Wakefield.

On its web site, Carabetta crows about its maintenance services. “Carabetta Management Company conducts frequent periodic reviews of each property for preventative maintenance items to identify potential problems before they occur,” the web site claims. “Our maintenance program has proven to keep costs down, build value in the properties as well as maintain the attractive and aesthetic appeal of each property.”

But, the Colonial Point tenants insist, Carabetta does not keep their building in decent repair and ignores renters’ complaints. “They don’t believe in preventative maintenance,” said one tenant. “They wait until something breaks down and then they take their time fixing it.”

“It’s a great building,” said another tenant. “We all love it. That’s why we’re here. If things were in decent repair, these would be luxury apartments.”

Matters came to a head during the four consecutive days in July when the building’s central air conditioning was not working. Tenants describe an overpowering foul odor emanating from the building’s indoor trash room. A call was made to the Health Department that handles the towns of Wakefield and Melrose.
trash_compactor
Colonial Point’s indoor trash system consists of chutes on each floor from which trash bags can be dropped down into a compactor in the first floor trash room, where a number of dumpsters are also located. Tenants say that at the time that the air conditioning went down, those dumpsters were piled high and overflowing, leading to an “obnoxious stench” in the building.

Health Inspector Kristin McRae says that when she responded to the complaint she found that the trash room was not in bad shape, but added that she suspects that conditions were worse when the initial call was made to the Health Department. McRae says that she did inform management that the trash room floor needed to be cleaned and that the seal under the door to the outside should be tightened with rodent proof stripping.

McRae says that she also inspected the building’s indoor swimming pool, which tenants describe as “filthy.” It has been closed for three months and is unfit for swimming, according to tenants, due to lack of maintenance by Carabetta. Still, on its web site and in its listings, Carabetta lists “heated indoor swimming pool” among the amenities offered at Colonial Point.
pool_sign2
Tenants say they have repeatedly complained to Carabetta about the pool’s water quality, adding that the water is supposed to be tested each day and they have asked for those results to be posted. That has not happened, according to tenants.

McRae says that as a result of her recent inspection, she determined that repairs to the pool are needed. She will re-inspect the pool after those repairs are made before allowing it to be re-opened.

McRae stressed that if tenants have future health-related complaints the Health Department will respond and address them.
pool_door2
Tenants also point out that Carabetta is aware that the locks on the sliding glass doors in the pool area have long been broken. Wooden sticks have been placed by tenants in the tracks to prevent the sliders from being opened from the outside.

In the ground floor hallway outside the pool area, tenants point to a smoke detector hanging from the ceiling by wires and a mysterious stain spreading across the ceiling. Both were reported to Carabetta weeks ago, according to tenants.
smoke_detector ceiling _stain
Colonial Point tenants say that they share a maintenance man with seven other Carabetta buildings. “We hardly see him,” one tenant says. The building used to have its own full-time maintenance person, and residents claim that Carabetta has promised to again provide full-time maintenance service for Colonial Point, but that hasn’t happened.

“We’ve been promised a lot of things,” says another tenant.
shower_hole
One family that has lived in the building since 2003 says that a hole in their shower leaks through to the building’s lobby. They say that they have reported it often over the last six months, but repairs have not been made. In addition, they say that according to the lease agreement, wall-to-wall carpeting in the apartments is supposed to be replaced every five years, but areas of carpeting in their living room are now completely worn through.

Tenants report that lighting in the parking lots around the building is poor and in some parking areas, non-existent. They claim that after the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency told Carabetta to correct the lighting problems, the company redirected a few lights and cut some tree branches. But residents point to areas in the lot that remain poorly lit or have no lights at all.

Tenants note that Carabetta has also been notified that a panel of lights in the building lobby designed to alert the security guard when one of the building’s emergency doors has been breached does not work.

Residents say that Carabetta views Colonial Point as a “property,” but to tenants who live there, it’s a community. “We see it as a neighborhood, like a street,” one tenant explains. “But instead of houses, we have apartments. Even though it’s their business, it’s our home.”

“We’re paying rent,” another tenant said. “Things are broken. We’re not asking for the moon.”

[This story originally appeared in the August 7, 2009 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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