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Peppertree Apartments nuisance complaint could move to federal court

Tenants won't be forced to move, at least for now.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — UPDATE 12/2/2021 - During a hearing Thursday, we learned papers have been filed to move the public nuisance case involving the Peppertree Apartments in Whitehaven to federal court.

The nuisance order said no new leases can be issued or renewed. People who live at the apartments can continue living there, for now.

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11/29/2021 - Shelby County Environmental Court Judge Patrick Dandridge postponed a hearing for the nuisance complaint filed against the Peppertree Apartments' owners in Whitehaven until Thursday. 

TESCO, the property management company, and the owners Peppertree Memphis Limited are being taken to court by the Shelby County District Attorney. The District Attorney's office filed a nuisance order against the apartment complex. In addition, the District Attorney said that in the past 18 months, there had been more than 1600 calls to the Memphis Police Department. 

The nuisance order states that no new residents can sign leases, and current residents cannot extend leases. A Temporary Restraining Order hearing will occur Thursday, where a judge will decide if that can stand. 

In a court hearing Monday, Tesco attorney Alexander Wharton told Judge Dandridge evicting tenants for no specific cause would violate federal housing laws because all residents living at Peppertree complex receive a federal subsidy for housing. Federal law prohibits them from being removed from the property except for specific reasons. 

After court, the Tesco property manager refused to answer questions. However, Wharton said evicting residents will harm residents. In addition, Wharton questioned the motivation for issuing the nuisance order, pointing out next year is an elections year. 

RELATED: Peppertree Apartments in Whitehaven declared a public nuisance

RELATED: 'Where I am going to go?' | Peppertree Apartment residents worried about future after public nuisance order

Wharton said evidence would show that as far back as March 2020, Peppertree managers reached out to MPD asking for assistance due to increased criminal activity that began weeks after the pandemic lockdown occurred. 

"There were no arrests being made. There were drive-thrus by police officers, and they were not arresting people even when reached out to by officials, and that was done again in April 2021," said Wharton. 

Seventeen leases expire in the next 60 days. But for now, Dandridge announced, tenants can remain in their apartments until a hearing can take place.