POSTED ON MARCH 5, 2008:
Shedding Light on Blight
Proposed upscale residential development raises Brooksiders' hopes that longtime eyesore might be razed
His Side of the Story. Dan Perry said tenants often leave apartments in a state of disrepair when they leave, especially those he has to evict for nonpayment of rent.
When the Houston-based Bomasada Group announced its plans last week to build a high-end, 5-story apartment complex in Brookside, many residents celebrated the development as an eventual end to the "blight" currently resting on the site at 39th St. and Rockford Ave, otherwise known as the Brookside Annex and Brookside Courtyard apartments (for the latest on that, see accompanying sidebar).
A persistent attitude among many of the neighborhood residents is that the blight in question is the deliberate creation of the landlord, Dan Perry of Perry Properties.
"He is not well liked at all," said Herb Beattie, spokesman for the Brookside Neighborhood association.
"The residents complain a lot that he hasn't made any investment in maintenance there because he's been actively trying to get the property off his hands," Beattie also said, as reported last week (see "Height Matters" in the February 28-March 5 of UTW at www.urbantulsa.com).
Perry, naturally, disagreed.
"I do the best I can with the rent we collect--I spend thousands of dollars a month in maintenance," he said, explaining that whatever perception there is of him as a "slumlord" is unfair and undeserved.
A former maintenance worker for Perry Properties, though, reinforced that perception during an interview with UTW.
"He does minimal maintenance," said Michael Gagliardo.
"He buys dumps in nice areas, and then he sits on it so he can unload it," he added.
Gagliardo is now the owner of the Dixie Tavern bar at 31st and 129th E. Ave.
He worked for Perry for about 18 months between 2005 and 2006, doing plumbing and minor electrical work, he said.
He said he worked for Perry for about six months before he moved into one of his properties.
According to the arrangement he had with Perry, he was "never on the books," he said, but lived rent-free in the Brookside Courtyard apartments in exchange for a 40-hour workweek, and Perry was supposed to pay his bills.
"I didn't see how things were done before I moved in," said Gagliardo.
He said he began to find out soon after he moved in, though, both as a tenant and as a member of Perry's motley crew of maintenance workers.
"The water was turned off one month, because he didn't pay the bill, and the electric a couple of other months," he said.
Many other apartments, though, were typically "overrun with rodents and roaches," he said.
"There were little old ladies there who were overrun with roaches," Gagliardo said.
Instead of bringing in professional exterminators, he said Perry preferred to fight the infestations on the cheap, using his own untrained maintenance personnel.
Also, he recalled one wheelchair-bound tenant of Perry's whose apartment had raw sewage seeping up through the floor for about six months, due to a broken pipe.
He recounted another instance in which a building's air-conditioning was down for 10 straight days one summer.
"He didn't want to bring in licensed heating and air guys; he wanted his own guys to do it," he said.
Gagliardo described Perry's maintenance personnel as "a bunch of slapstick guys who can't even put up drywall."
At one point, he said he needed the front door replaced at his own apartment, and they put it on upside-down at first.
He said Perry's hiring of less-than-qualified maintenance personnel is just one aspect of his "overall neglect of the properties."
"Guys on probation and parole come to work for him," Gagliardo said.
He said he found employment with Perry after driving around Tulsa, looking for an apartment, when he discovered he was hiring maintenance workers.
He'd previously been a licensed heating, ventilation and air-conditioning technician, but hadn't renewed his license.
Along with cutting costs with cheap maintenance labor, he said Perry uses that bargain manpower to do only minimal maintenance.
"He's just doing patch jobs," he said.
"There should be more laws to protect tenants from landlords like this. These are people who are socially and financially at a disadvantage," Gagliardo commented.
He said he left Perry's employ two years ago because of the "shoddy workmanship" he saw, not wanting to be a part of it.
Gagliardo said he never voiced his concerns to Perry while he worked for him, though, and not when he left his property and employ.
"I just told him I was moving out," he said.
Gagliardo said he never brought up his objections because "he's just not approachable. He's a pretty cut and dry guy," he said.
"His attitude was 'you work for me, so mind your own business,'" Gagliardo added.
"I believe he knows what he's doing is unethical, though. That is, if greed and power haven't clouded his judgment," he also said.
Apparently, Gagliardo isn't alone in his characterization of Perry and his way of doing business. As previously mentioned, and reported last week, Perry's reputation preceded him to the leadership of the Brookside Neighborhood Association.
But, Perry insists that he invests a lot of money and effort into maintenance, and that he cares about his tenants and his properties.
"I spend 15 percent of my budget on maintenance, and that's about double what's normal," he told UTW.
He said most of his properties were built in the 1920s, so much of their state of disrepair--and the high costs of keeping up with maintenance--are due to age, not neglect.
But, neglect does factor somewhat into the state of his properties, Perry said, but it isn't neglect on his part.
Perry said tenants often leave apartments in a state of disrepair when they leave, especially those he has to evict for nonpayment of rent.
"I have to evict about five people a month, and have to threaten between 20 or 30 people with eviction," he said, noting that he loses about $10,000 a month from tenants who skip out on their leases.
"But, I also have tenants who have lived here for 20 years," Perry added.
When questioned about Gagliardo, Perry at first said, "He never worked for me."
Upon reviewing his records, though, he recalled that he "did a few odds and ends" in exchange for prorated rent, from April 2005 and April 2006.
"It was mostly just make-ready stuff that he did," he said.
Perry said he didn't get much use out of Gagliardo, and so terminated the "rent-for-work" arrangement with him at some point near the end of that period.
He wasn't told Gagliardo's reason for leaving, but noted that he still owes $1,357 after moving out in the middle of May 2006.
Perry both corroborated and disputed many of the maintenance practices Gagliardo criticized.
He said some apartments are, in fact, sometimes overrun with roaches and rodents, not because he doesn't aggressively deal with the problem, but because some of his tenants don't clean their apartments.
He said his own maintenance personnel are effective in dealing with the problem with tenants do their part.
"I've tried pest control companies in the past and, to me, they're pretty much worthless," said Perry.
He said he purchases pesticide online, which his maintenance workers apply.
However, Perry disputed that he would have let sewage persistently seep up through a tenant's floor for six months.
"That must have been a broken pipe, but something like that, we'd take care of immediately," he said.
And his maintenance personnel are well-equipped and well-qualified to take care of basic, day-to-day maintenance, and when they're not, he calls in the appropriate experts.
He said his "main maintenance guy" of several years, Chris Watkins, is a journeyman electrician by trade.
Perry also said he has never hired a parolee or a person on probation, and has background checks on all of his direct employees.
In the case of the 10-day air-conditioning lapse referenced by Gagliardo, he said he may well have used his own employees.
"It just depends on the problems. Sometimes it's just a breaker trip, which they can take care of. Sometimes it's something bigger, and we call in an A/C repairman," defended Perry.
He said he normally tries to handle maintenance problems internally, but if his own personnel can't handle it, he calls in a contractor.
"I can provide names and amounts spent per month, if you would like to review my file," Perry offered as evidence.
He also corrected the persistent notion that he regularly purchases properties and lets them fall into disrepair so he can unload them on developers.
"I'm not much of a seller, but I've bought several properties over the years," Perry said.
After 21 years in business, he now owns 80 properties, of which the Brookside Annex and Courtyard apartments are only two. He said he sold no more than eight or nine properties in that time, some of which have been demolished by developers who purchased them.
"I try to buy good locations, but I've sold some," Perry said.
"I wouldn't sell it without making a good profit," he added.
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A20038