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Indiana is suing an apartment owner for abandoning renters in Anderson. Here’s why one still lives there

By Thomas Ouellette, IPR News | Published on in Community, Economy, Law, Local News
The Bingham Square Apartments "J building" still stands after catching fire in 2022. (Thomas Ouellette / IPR News)

Indiana’s attorney general is suing the owner of two apartment complexes in Anderson.  The lawsuit claims Property Resource Associates abandoned the tenants and let the buildings fall into disrepair.  According to residents in one of the complexes, management left the leasing office without warning in 2022 and never returned.  IPR’s Thomas Ouellette talks with one of the last people to still live at Bingham Square Apartments.

Troy Nightbourne is currently living at Bingham Square Apartments.  He still gets notifications that his rent is overdue.  To date, the number is over $20,000.  But Nightbourne says there’s no way to pay what he owes.

“Every time I’ve tried, it tells me to contact a number.  Reach out to contact that number.  This number has been disconnected,” said Nightbourne.

“Yet I still get notification each and every month saying, ‘Hey, you owe this much money. Hey, this is your late fee.’ And there’s just no way to pay it, no physically, there is no way to pay it.”

In December of 2022, Nightbourne and others say the leasing office was closed and no one from management has returned.  Shortly after, the complex’s rent payment portal became inactive along with the associated phone numbers.

The door to Bingham Square’s leasing office after management nailed it shut. (Thomas Ouellette / IPR News)

Boxes filled with vital tenant information, like Social Security numbers, were left open to anyone who could get through the door.  Nightbourne said management sent a maintenance crew to dump the documents into an on-site dumpster and nail the office door shut.

The apartment owners have also neglected to pay the complex’s utilities bill.  Between Bingham Square and Madison Square Apartments, owners now owe nearly a million dollars in unpaid utilities.

So much time has passed since maintenance was last on the premises that some electrical boxes have been completely stripped by looters and others covered by foliage.

“Dude, we’re the ghetto of the ghetto. The people in the ghetto don’t come to here unless you want to dump off a body or do a daytime drug deal,” Nightbourne said.

Attorney General Todd Rokita is suing the owners for violating the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, Home Loan Practices Act, and the Uniform Business Organizations Act.

In a press release, Rokita states, “The way that hardworking Hoosiers are alleged to have been treated by these defendants is disgraceful”.

Nightbourne says he and his neighbors witness scavengers and drug users breaking into empty buildings on a daily basis.

“One day, I’d left the apartment up here, I literally watched a small like F-10, little truck, S-10 pull up, four people piled out, went straight up, kicked the door in, took all the appliances out.”

Read More: Muncie’s Middletown Property Group settles with state for business practices, will refund some renters

Kim Townsend is the CEO of the Anderson Housing Authority. Since 2018, she had been trying to improve conditions at the complex.  That’s before it was purchased by Property Resource Associates. After it became Bingham Square, Kim says she was committed to working with the new owners.  That is, until complaints started coming in and she went to take a look for herself.

“I went out to a property that had a veteran in it. And my inspector said, ‘Kim you have to come out here for yourself and see this.’ So I went in, and as soon as I stepped in his apartment, water kind of came up. He was on oxygen, he had no air, they had some portable system, it was really clammy in there, very damp, and that’s not good for people who have breathing problems,” she said.

The inside of a unit at Bingham Square Apartments (Thomas Ouellette / IPR News)

Visiting the complex now, there are signs of black mold, indoor flooding, and water damage to the foundation.  Most of the units look uninhabitable.

And then there’s the fire damage.  The J building at Bingham Square caught fire in May of 2022.  It has been condemned.  But that’s the only building to be condemned, according to the Anderson Department of Municipal Development.

Former Anderson City Council president Rebecca Crumes is also intensely focused on conditions at Bingham Square. To her, the most frustrating part is that the residents still living at the complex don’t want to stay there, but they can’t leave, either.

“Troy is one of the last of the Mohicans, because he said he can’t move to a $2,000 or $3,000 a month apartment. He does not get that much. He has to be in a rent control, low-income housing. Kim has 500 people on her waiting list. Waiting on HUD, with HUD approved vouchers,” said Crumes.

Read More: Affordable housing further out of reach for Hoosiers, according to new report

The city’s Department of Municipal Development says orders have been given to the owner to vacate both Bingham Square and Madison Square apartments.  But residents at Bingham say none of them have received official documentation telling them to leave.

Phone numbers and emails associated with Property Resource Associates are no longer active. I reached an associate of the owner, but they declined to answer any questions.

A court date hasn’t yet been set for the attorney general’s lawsuit.

Property Resource Associates is also being sued by the city of Anderson, its Redevelopment Commission, and its locally owned utilities over unpaid utilities fees, mortgage and bond payments, and not fulfilling an economic development agreement.  The lawsuit was filed in July of last year and is still winding its way through pre-trial motions.

Read More: Advocates call for governor to create commission to address worsening housing crisis

The state-level lawsuit also accuses the Bingham Square owner of “emotional distress caused to all residents of Bingham Square and Madison Square tenants who experienced physiological harm or fear of future physiological harm as a result of Defendants’ failure to pay for utilities.”

Nightbourne says he and his neighbors want the same thing any as person in Anderson – a place where they can feel safe when they sleep every night, a place where they don’t have to worry about their building falling apart around them, and a place they can call home.

But right now, all they can afford to hope for, is that they are seen.

“I want people to realize how chaotic and how much of a mess it is, that it has been for like the last four or five years. The knowledge that somebody has realized that how badly they messed up, and how confusing it is for the rest of the neighborhood and the city, because people are hearing one thing and we’re hearing something else.”

Read More: New kiosks across Indiana will connect people facing eviction with legal services

Thomas Ouellette is our reporter and producer.  Contact him at thomas.ouellette@bsu.edu