Tenants, city and landlord clash over 'unlivable' Fitchburg apartment complex

Tenant, city clash over Fitchburg apartment

FITCHBURG, Wis. - City officials toured an apartment complex in Fitchburg on Tuesday following complaints of cockroaches and overall lack of livability from a tenant.

The mayor, city administrators and the chiefs of police and fire joined in to look through Fenway Manor. Afterward the mayor confirmed the reality was as bad as the reports, and the city will likely have to get the county department of health involved.

“We’re looking at doing this so people have a place that’s safe, welcoming, inviting for them to live,” said Mayor Jason Gonzolez. “They’re paying rent here, and they should get a good place to live, a good, safe place to live, and that’s really what we’re looking at.”

Calvin Edwards Bay said his apartment is “terrible,” and he said he hopes someone can do something about it. Until then he said he wants to move him and his family out, but they are having a hard time finding another place after living there.

“It is hard to find an apartment living in his building,” he said. “Because they don't want you in their property if you rent from Erv.”

The landlord, Erv Bendorf, has a reputation for allowing people to stay even after missing rent payments and despite causing trouble.

It’s something some ex-tenants said they loved about him.

“Erv is not about the money,” former tenant Rashon Goodwin said. “It's about sheltering, (giving) kids and families somewhere to go.”

While the city group was looking inside, Goodwin walked up and gave landlord Bendorf a hug, her friend yelling, “Good landlords matter.”

Bendorf said he loves his tenants, and they love him too.

“I call myself a rehabber of people,” he said. “I bring people in here that have been put down on. I bring them in here and help them as best as I can for as long as I can.”

He said the city has been fighting with him for three years. He said it’s because the city wants to build a hotel behind his property, and in order to do that they have to tear down the complex.

“It’s caused three years of chaos,” he said.

The mayor confirmed a hotel put in an offer for the property, which he said Bendorf denied, asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars more. Now the mayor said the city is working to put together a TIF agreement, which would divert certain property tax dollars into a fund to buy the property.


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