Fire breaks out at complex hours after court order forces evictions

Alexis-apartments shut down3.jpg
Alexis-apartments shut down3.jpg

Residents of a Columbus apartment complex said they received very little notice to find a new place to live Thursday, after finding out their complex will be shut down Friday after an emergency court order. The scene became even more dramatic when a fire started at the complex hours after that order was given.

"It's really gotten bad," said tenant Janice Lanning. "People with their alcohol came, then the drugs came and then the prostitution came."

Janice Lanning has lived at the apartments at 563 South Hague Avenue in the Hilltop for the last four years.

"I've been robbed nine times," said Lanning.

She said she keeps trying to move, but feels she wouldn't be able to afford anywhere else.

"I try to mind my own business most of the time and stay out of it," said Lanning. "But, I don't even have my grandchildren here because it's not safe."

Now, Lanning and all other tenants are being forced to move.

"I'm screwed. In a way I'm screwed," said tenant Nicholas Kearington.

City Attorney Zach Klein requested that the nine-unit building be shut down, forcing all tenants to vacate.

"It's horrible," said Kearington. "They only gave us 24-hour notice. Not even, they came yesterday at 4:00. That doesn't give you time to make phone calls and then they tell you, you have to be out by 11."

Klein said police responded to the premise more than 100 times in the last two years for drug deals, prostitution and shots fired. However, as the eviction notices went up, some of the tenants started to get heated.

"They were all out here fighting all day and all night, screaming and threatening," said Lanning. "A zoo is more peaceful than this."

A fire broke out at the building Thursday afternoon, hours after the eviction notices went out. Fire crews are still investigating if it was arson.

"We could have died you know. I was here all by myself and I didn't know how I was going to get out," said Lanning.

Officers helped Lanning out of her apartment and she'll be staying at LifeCare Alliance at least for the next week. However, after that she said she still has to figure out what her next steps are.

The city is expected to board the building Friday at 11 am.