UPDATE: Homewood apartment residents able to move back in after being displaced due to building structural damage

Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 11:20 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 23, 2022 at 2:54 PM CDT
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HOMEWOOD, Ala. (WBRC) - UPDATE 6/23: “We have been in contact with good communication now. They have resolved/repaired the structural issues enough that a structural engineer has said it is safe for certain parts of the building to be occupied. There is a section of the building that will remain unoccupied until a structural engineer can pass that section. Residents starting moving back in yesterday (June 22) to the parts that were safe per the structural engineer,” said Lt. Shannon with Homewood Fire.

ORIGINAL: Families in 12 Homewood apartment units have been forced to evacuate because property managers found structural damage in the building.

A dozen or so residents at The Valora at Homewood apartment complex evacuated Tuesday night because of structural beam issues. One unnamed resident tells WBRC they only had about a half-hour’s notice to grab their stuff and get out. The complex’s management told residents in a letter later put on their doors that the fire department knew about the building problem and would come check for evacuation, but fire officials tells WBRC that isn’t true.

“They should have alerted the fire department that they had a structural issue with their building,” Homewood Fire Chief Mark Shannon said.

Shannon said he found out Wednesday morning, after the evacuation, that the Valora at Homewood was evacuating residents for structure damage.

“They stated in the letter that they sent out to residents that we were aware of it, and was going to come up there to make sure everyone evacuated, but we were never notified.”

Shannon said for fire safety concerns, the department needs to know of any structure damage within city limits. He met with the property management early Wednesday morning to investigate.

“The apartment complex had a structural engineer come take a look at it,” Shannon said. “There is enough damage that he stated that they were going to keep the residents out until they could figure out how to fix it.”

One displaced resident tells WBRC they aren’t allowed back into their apartments right now and have no timeline on when they can go home. She said she is worried about looters since the building is vacant.

“If the floor collapsed, you could have someone hurt,” Shannon said. “But, also with the building settling like it is, you could have some electrical issues, wire getting pinched inside the building that can cause a fire.”

He said Homewood Fire just did an inspection on the property back in December and they had minor violations.

“We are not structural engineers,” Shannon said. “So, there may be stuff that was happening that we didn’t see during that inspection, but they did correct all of the violations that we found during that inspection.”

Shannon said the city engineer is also set to look at the rest of the still occupied apartments, in case something similar is happening to those buildings.

But, for the evacuated residents, Shannon said he’s hoping for an update from the complex soon.

“They are supposed to keep the fire department updated on when it will be that they think the structure issues can be fixed,” Shannon said.

One resident tells WBRC because they were told to evacuate so quickly, many of them only have the clothes on their backs and can’t go back inside to get more things.

Statement from Community management at Valora at Homewood Apartments

Property Managers of Valora at Homewood Apartments continue to work diligently to ensure residents can be resettled back into their homes safely as quickly as possible. In an abundance of caution, the 18 families who reside in a building at 905 Valley Ridge were relocated to a hotel Tuesday, June 14 so engineers could inspect the property. The move followed a Monday report from a resident that she noticed some settling in her apartment home floor in one area and heard an odd sound.

Residents are being housed in a nearby hotel at no cost to the affected residents. The apartment community ownership is in direct contact with residents regarding the situation and their needs. The engineering teams report significant progress, and residents are being kept apprised of developments.

We appreciate everyone’s patience as we know this is extremely disruptive and inconvenient to our residents and their families. We continue to place top priority on our residents’ safety and wellbeing as engineers and inspectors continue their work.

Timeline of events (submitted to WBRC by a Valora spokesperson)

  • Monday, June 13 a resident reported to community management that she heard an unusual sound and noticed some settling in her apartment home floor in one area.
  • Site management staff responded to the work order request and explored the issue.
  • Maintenance technicians working on the issue Tuesday contacted corporate management and requested further assistance
  • That afternoon, (Tuesday), the Regional Manager personally walked the unit and the crawl space underneath and reported it to Senior Management who instructed that a structural engineer be engaged as soon as possible.
  • In an abundance of caution, pending the outcome of a complete inspection and engineering report, the company ordered residents of the building to be relocated to a local hotel Tuesday.
  • Removing residents from the property was the ultimate preventative safety measure that could be taken.
  • All 18 families who reside in the building are being housed in a nearby hotel at no cost to the residents.
  • Structural engineers began their investigation Wednesday morning and are working with a construction project manager, local building inspectors and the fire marshal.

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