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Residents forced to evacuate as 48 hour deadline for apartment building to pass inspection is reached

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Posted at 1:42 PM, Jun 29, 2022

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Residents of a 15-story apartment in Newport News are being required to vacate the building after the Newport News Code of Compliance deemed the building "unsafe."

As the clock struck 9 a.m. on Friday, residents were forced to evacuate.

Penny Kmitt went live on Facebook with what the tenants of Seaview Apartments were doing as the deadline was reached.

Penny Kmitt was also able to enter the building to show viewers an inside look on what the tenants were going through after the deadline was reached.

In a letter sent to residents of the Seaview Apartments on June 28, Director Harold L. Roach Jr. said that the order was given due to the building's owner's failure to correct safety issues with the property. Residents have been instructed to leave within "forty-eight hours of the date of this notice."

NN Seaview Apartments notice to vacate

The letter cited 15.2-906 of the Code of Virginia, as amended, 13-28 of the Newport News Municipal Code and 106.1 and 106.8 of the Virginia Maintenance Code.

According to City of Newport News spokesperson Kim Lee, the city has been in and out of court with the apartment complex since April, with nine court orders issued.

But one resident told News 3's Penny Kmitt that he wishes the city would do more.

"How are we going to let our officials come in with people from out of town and run amok? Tenants' lives matter, too," he said.

The building's two elevators are why the building was deemed unsafe. According to the city, usually only one of the two elevators would be working, but the functioning elevator was not up to code, including the two-way communication in case of an emergency were not working.

The city also said the building's fire alarm is not working.

Tuesday, a judge ordered that if the elevators were not up to code and fixed by Wednesday by 9 a.m. residents would have to leave. The elevators were not fixed by Wednesday morning, so the people are required to vacate.

Seaview Loft resident Jennifer Braden, who was preparing to move out Thursday, told us she wasn't taking any chances.

"We got the letter yesterday and we're not taking our chances," she said. "It's a scramble because we thought we had until October until our lease was up. We're not going to stick around until October because they could come in tomorrow and say, that's it, it's done."

Related: Report details problems with Newport News apartment building's elevators

The official said there are about 135 units and around 200 people who live in the apartments. It is not Section 8 property, but many residents are not paying rent due to the Rent Relief Program.

Braden says that because everyone is moving out simultaneously, it's been nearly impossible to find a U-Haul.

"We're taking trips back and forth in the car right now," she said. "Yesterday, nothing was available and today nothing is available until 4:30 p.m."

According to a flier sent to residents, the Newport News Department of Human Services will assist in providing shelter referrals or additional resources. An information and assessment assembly was held Wednesday morning to determine eligibility requirements and alternative accommodations for those impacted.

NN Seaview Apartments notice to vacate

Officials with Newport News Code and Compliance were at the building Friday morning to walk through each floor and tell residents to leave.

While the building is not officially closed, there is no date for reopening. Since this is a holiday weekend, residents will not have any updates until next week.

Tenants received an email from management Thursday night saying that they are still working to repair the elevator issues and have been doing so "for weeks." They say that the process has been taking longer than anticipated due to supply chain issues.

"We do not want any residents to be vacated from the property, but the city of Newport News is not allowing us ample time for these repairs. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused and we are hoping that you will not have to vacate," the email reads.