We get it. When things go wrong with old buildings like the Tower Apartments, a 93-year-old structure in downtown Riverside, fixes can be expensive. Heck, buying any apartment building is a huge expense, both when you buy it and all the time you own it.

So, if you have little regard for a building’s maintenance, please don’t buy it or do everyone a favor, and sell it.

What transpired at the Tower Apartments last week was outrageous and absolutely preventable. There is no reason residential and commercial tenants should have had to either flee their homes or suffer through the coldest temperatures of the winter after the one boiler that controls heat to the entire building failed.

How old was the boiler? We don’t know. The company that manages the property doesn’t like to return calls from the press – although they’ve had many occasions to do so over the years as problems with the Tower Apartments have surfaced.

We hear from tenants, however, that heat in the building had been an inconsistent proposition for some time. If that’s the case, the boiler suffering an irreversible failure last week should not have come as a surprise to the people responsible for maintaining the physical plant.

That the building then didn’t summarily burn to the ground last week is something of a miracle as tenants were forced to heat their units by running their ovens for hours or deploying space heaters, in at least one instance shorting out an electric circuit that left black residue on the outlet.

But that’s only the beginning of the story. Tenants complained to the Landmark of water leaks, broken appliances and toilets and mice. 

Back in 2006, the village sued the property management company of the Tower Apartments after a second-floor toilet overflowed into a ground-floor antiques store and then delayed doing anything about it for months, threatening instead to evict the commercial tenant.

In 2018, a 70-year-old man who was a tenant of the building and was hired to paint a rear wooden stairwell fell to his death when a railing gave way. The village subsequently ordered the entire stairwell replaced and the man’s family sued the building’s owner and property management company, who settled the suit, without admitting any liability, for $950,000.

The attorney hired by the defendants to handle the case? A northwest suburban man removed from the job after being accused—and later convicted – along with his wife of killing their young child.

So, in the past few years, people at the Tower Apartments have died and have been forced to endure sub-zero temperatures because the owner and property management company haven’t been able to maintain the building’s infrastructure.

That’s an absolute disgrace, and we urge the village and whoever else has the power to ensure the rights of tenants to live in safe housing to pursue to the fullest extent whatever compliance measure they need to pursue.

These conditions are simply unacceptable in Riverside or anywhere where these folks operate. It’s long past time to compel them to provide acceptable standards of maintenance and living conditions.