A bankruptcy hearing for the owners of the vacated Latitude Five25 apartments on the Near East Side has been continued until May 23 so the owners can finalize a deal with the tenants who were forced to leave the apartments on Christmas Day.
The continuance, filed by the Columbus City Attorney’s office, gives Paxe Latitude LP of Lakewood, N.J., more time to show that they have money to help residents, said Graham Bowman, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, The hearing was to have been Wednesday.
“Essentially, we have retained our own pro bono bankruptcy counsel in New Jersey trying to hammer out a settlement with Paxe Latitude to create a fund for the residents,” Bowman said, to compensate them for what they have endured for four months.
“The misery they’ve been through, the property that has been destroyed, the impact that has had on people, their mental and physical health,” Bowman said.
“People are on the verge of really spiraling and struggling. We need the money as soon as possible,” said Bowman who said he was cautiously optimistic a settlement can be reached.
Pete Shipley, spokesman for Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein, said in a text, “We’d like a deal that fairly compensates tenants for mismanagement and negligence by the landlord that culminated in near total property loss for tenants.”
Residents were evacuated on Dec. 25 after water lines broke during subzero temperatures. The towers had a history of issues, including elevators that didn’t work, heating problems and a loss of hot water.
The Dispatch left a message with Columbus-based lawyer Michael Cassone, who represents Paxe Latitude.
Paxe Latitude filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Feb. 20. That came just four days after Franklin County Environmental Court Judge Stephanie Mingo held the company in contempt of court, ordering $4.3 million fines, after Paxe Latitude in January had agreed to sell the towers, pay for repairs, reimburse the city for overtime costs, and pay up to $340,000 for the cost of hotel rooms, bus passes and food for residents.
Mingo had ordered a $2.5 million fine to be paid by March 3 to refund any paid rent for January, as well as to reimburse out-of-pocket expenses for displaced tenants, and to pay attorney fees for Legal Aid.
In March, the judge in the bankruptcy case denied the city’s motion to dismiss the bankruptcy case. The city had argued that Paxe Latitude filed for bankruptcy to dodge the fine.
Klein had filed a contempt motion on Dec. 27, asking for a court-appointed receiver and an order for Paxe Latitude to pay for all repairs and relocation costs.
On Monday, Columbus City Council approved another $533,400 toward rental assistance, and another $265,000 for direct cash payments and new furniture for former residents. That brings the city’s total contribution to deal with the Latitude Five25 crisis to $1.3 million since January.
The two 15-story towers total about 400 units. As of April 14, residents were still living in 28 hotel rooms. On Dec. 25, the city evacuated 154 households from the towers.
The City Attorney’s office in September filed a contempt action against Paxe Latitude for violating a May 2022 court order to fix code violations and address security concerns at the apartments, which were built six decades ago as public housing, once known as Sawyer Towers.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: latitude-five25-owner-tries-to-work-out-deal-with-displaced-residents/70147090007/” data-ylk=”slk:Latitude Five25 owner tries to work out deal with displaced residents;elm:context_link;itc:0″ class=”link “>Latitude Five25 owner tries to work out deal with displaced residents
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