LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Wednesday that her office has filed a lawsuit against Big Country Chateau and its parent company Apex. The apartment complex has been the source of controversy since residents were notified last month that water services would be shut off.
In a news conference, Rutledge showed photographs and shared information gathered by her office in an inspection last month. Pictures showed mold, gaping holes in walls, damaged flooring and a swimming pool in serious disrepair.
“Our neighbors, people who have children who go to our local schools were living in what I consider and you would consider unlivable conditions,” Rutledge said.
Rutledge said Big Country Chateau and Apex violated Arkansas’ Deceptive Trade Practices Act. She said the complex pocketed money tenants paid for utilities and neglected to pay for water and electric services. The penalties could be up to $10,000 per violation.
“There are 151 units at Big Country Chateau,” Rutledge said. “For those of you who are non-math majors like me, that’s $1.5 million.”
People living in the apartments said they have dealt with many of these problems for years. The current controversy started last month when Central Arkansas Water distributed flyers telling residents their water would be shut off Sept. 1. Rutledge said the complex at one point owed the water company $200,000.
A manager who asked not to be identified said $75,000 of that money has been paid, and the company is waiting on Apex to sign off on an 18-month plan to pay the remainder.
The manager said the electric bill has been completely taken care of. At one point, that deficit was $70,000.
A second inspection was conducted Wednesday morning to determine whether Big Country management had fixed hundreds of issues that needed to be resolved.
“People weren’t telling us what’s wrong with their apartments,” the manager said. “Until we know something’s wrong, we can’t fix it. Now that we know, we’re trying to fix those issues.”
The manager said he hopes the inspection shows investigators that enough is being done to buy more time.
“We have proven we’ll do whatever we have to do to get everything up to code,” the manager said. “We want to be better than code.”