Tenants say management takes a week or more to respond to reports of serious problems.

The seniors’ identities at Maple Village have been kept anonymous by their request for their safety.

Maple Village at 22 W Rittenhouse Street. (GIH | Rasheed Ajamu)

What should have been a joyous holiday season for one Germantown senior citizen turned into a mission to save their belongings and find temporary shelter after a pipe burst at Maple Village Senior Apartments at 22 West Rittenhouse Street. And a closer look inside the building revealed the pipe burst wasn’t the only issue for people living there.

Shortly before Christmas, the Maple Village resident said dirty waterfalls began to erupt from their ceiling. The water came from a 4th-floor pipe break that affected their apartment, another resident, a reception office, and other nearby areas.

“I ran around trying to catch some of the water in buckets and bowls,” they recall. “I carried these loads to the kitchen and bathroom sinks and toilet, which allowed me to save some of my goods.”

Scattered items across the displaced resident’s bedroom. (GIH | Rasheed Ajamu)

They say that aside from the harm water inundation can do to seniors’ health, just running around could have been dangerous, as they have heart trouble.

The leak left their living room, dinette, kitchen, first bedroom, and bathroom damaged, and pieces from the ceiling scattered around. The only room spared was their second bedroom, which the elder says is probably from a noticeable tilt in the building to the southeast. The tenant says the ceiling pieces and damaged floors, including rugs, were restored or removed in February, more than a month after the incident.

They say management turned off the water within an hour or two, and maybe a day or two later, heaters and fans were placed around the affected areas to dry them. Due to the fans running for about five days, residents of the affected areas’ electricity bills increased.

During the aftermath, the tenant was forced to bounce among friends’ homes, Airbnb’s, and hotels. They say that management didn’t offer assistance to them during their time of need, including an empty place for storing goods that had to be removed for floor repair–which began very late. Renters’ insurance can cover hotel stays, but not every tenant has it.

The Germantown Info Hub visited Maple Village on March 6 to examine the property. We spoke with the tenant, who was already there at 8:30 a.m. to direct folks hired by the building to move their things back (they didn’t arrive until about 10 a.m., and nothing was moved that day. They allowed us into their apartment to see the progress on rehabilitating the space.

What we found was that the space was still uninhabitable. The tenant could still not live in the space due to spotty electrical service, which only worked for the stove, fridge, and bathroom. Dirt, debris, and items were still strewn across their bed and kitchen.

Destroyed phone from the leak. (GIH | Rasheed Ajamu)

While there, we looked to speak to other tenants to see if they had been affected by the leak. The upside is most were not. The downside is they had other problems with building management and maintenance.

A fourth-floor tenant shared that the same flood affected her family, saying that her ceilings were also out for around two months but have since been replaced. That’s all she wished to share.

The second-floor tenant Mr. Charlie says that this apartment has frequent leaks, some of which occurred in his apartment in February 2022. Throughout that apartment were creases and lines in the ceiling plaster where work was done. He also says that within the four years of living in the building, when building issues arise, management lends tenants no living assistance and responds to a leak about a week later.

Mr. Charlie also says that whenever people are sent out to fix things, it feels like an invasion of privacy, it’s very noisy, and he just doesn’t feel the work is done right. He says repair workers left dust around his kitchen during one incident and didn’t clean it after.

“I had to take all this stuff and clean it,” Mr. Charlie said, pointing to different kitchen areas. “I took all this down and cleaned it. It was dust everywhere.”

He supplied us with photos showing some of his apartment’s frequent issues and the damages it would leave in his apartment.

Another fourth-floor tenant, who has lived in the building for eight years, shared her experience. She says maintenance has declined steadily over the past three years. She says the water pressure in her apartment is meager, merely “trickling out.” When she asked property management about the issue, they said they were refurbishing one of two pumps, so they turn the water off in the evening and on the weekend.

As a disabled senior, she cannot leave her apartment for necessities like groceries and medicine. She relies heavily on her intercom to let in her daughter, who assists her frequently. Since February, she could not use the intercom because it was broken. She reported it on February 10 and had not gotten any help by our March 6 visit.

“There are other things I want to talk about, but I’m just talking about the basic stuff,” she says. “I want to be able to get people in and out through the intercom. I want to be able to turn on my faucet and not feel like I’m in a third-world country.”

While these tenants have experienced damages from previous leaks, they also disdain the yearly rent increase. They share sentiments about not seeing the benefit of paying extra money yearly to experience the same things repeatedly and constantly.

The same woman with the intercom issues says, “I’m just a person paying rent faithfully every month and have certain expectations about the standard that maintenance should have.”

Mr. Charlie disclosed his rent amount dating back to 2019, when it was $650, versus the $812 he’d begin paying in May — a $162 increase in four years. 

On March 26, we checked in with the senior displaced from her living space, and she has since moved back into her apartment. However, they had to enlist the help of friends to help her clean it so that she could live comfortably in it again.

The Germantown Info Hub has made several attempts since March 10 to reach Pennrose Management, which oversees the building, to ask for comment or response. So far, managers have yet to respond to multiple requests.

This story and headline were updated on April 24, 2023.

Germantown Info Hub is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic mobility. Read more at brokeinphilly.org or follow at @brokeinphilly.