Tenant reveals poor living conditions at Spanish Oaks Apartments; owner says cause was ‘bad manager’

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LUBBOCK, Texas — In one of the most poignant moments from the city’s last Charter Review Meeting, Rosa Saiz came forward to tell everyone about the poor living conditions she’s been enduring at the Spanish Oaks Apartments complex. 

Saiz told us that she thought the buildings needed to be condemned — and KAMC News took a look to see what was really going on. The owner said it was all a result of bad management. 

“We are asking already for a safe place to take my family. Enough is enough,” said Saiz. 

After hearing silence from her apartment complex following a number of work orders for dangerous living conditions, Saiz turned to her city leaders for help.

“It’s not okay to have your kids running through sewage,” said Saiz. “It’s not okay to have them through the winter with cardboard … It’s not okay that these leaks have turned into mold.

Those are just a few of the problems Saiz dealt with since moving into the Spanish Oaks Apartments over a year ago. She said that every work order she filed from gas leaks, backed up sewer lines and broken windows were ignored.

However, when Rosalind Priestly drove by the apartments one day, she demanded something be done. 

“People in low income — don’t think they have to live any kind of way, that was the reason I came over here in the first place,” said Saiz. “Within a basic human right, we don’t want to be leaving any old, nasty kind of way.”

Priestly filed a complaint with the City Codes and got in touch with Saiz who did the same. Priestly even sent the complex owner, Dr. Lester Payne, a letter about the conditions. 

It turns out, it was all the result of a bad manager he’d hired over a year and a half ago.

“We just had a real problem. We didn’t know we had a bad manager,” said Payne.

Payne said the former manager was stealing residents’ money, the fund allocated for maintenance and facilities and had never filed a single work order. This understandably caused a compilation of major problems.

Payne said she’d even threatened some of the residents with eviction for reporting damages to the city.

“I don’t know what it was, I don’t know how she gained that kind of power over the tenants, but we’re fixing it,” said Payne.

He only found out about the problems when Priestly sent him a letter and contacted him about the issues.

“The notifications that we provided them of the violations basically gave them 30 days and we’ll be back out around the 26th of this month to see if compliance, if those violations have been abaded,” said City Codes Director Stuart Walker.

Payne hired new management. He said they’re now working closely with codes to get the conditions where they need to be. 

“I’m trying to do everything that codes is requiring us to do,” said new manager Peggy Bryant. “And I’m trying to have a maintenance person that can go and fix all the problems that need to be fixed. But it does take time.”

Understanding all the stress that this has caused, Payne said that he’ll work with residents who had money stolen by previous management. 

“I want this whole place to be great and this little lady has a plan to do it and I’m going to work 100 percent with her to make that possible,” said Payne. “My objective right now is to make this place great and all tenants happy.”

Now Payne is working with Priestly who is starting the Harriet Tubman foundation, a nonprofit that aims to bring more attention to East Lubbock so that issues like this don’t get overlooked again. To get in touch with her about this, you can call 806-281-4434.

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