The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Salem man remodeling, cleaning up crime-ridden Nandina apartments


April 27, 2016

JUSTIN CHERRINGTON talks about the Nandina Street apartments he is remodeling, pictured behind him.

New landlord Justin Cherrington says quality rental units are key to cleaning up Sweet Home neighborhoods, like one in the 1200 block of Nandina Street.

Cherrington, a Salem resident, bought the little one-bedroom apartments at 1240 and 1250 Nandina St. in December.

He gave residents one chance to stay in the apartments, he said, although he knew they wouldn’t follow the rules. When they didn’t, he kicked them out.

Then he went to work. The apartments now feature new granite countertops with garnet chips, new floors, plumbing, paint and more in an effort to raise the quality of the rental units that have been at the center of Sweet Home’s crime problems.

“When I got this,” Cherrington said as he entered one unit last week, “this was the most notorious drug dealers in town. I watched probably 100 different people come in and out of this unit, people that didn’t live here.”

In the past year, according to police records, police responded to calls at 1250 Nandina St. 63 times and arrested 27 people on 43 charges.

“The prior owner would allow this to basically be a homeless camp,” Cherrington said. The landlord would charge people $20 to camp out in tents.

That pattern has changed drastically. Just two residents remain among the seven units.

“They’ve been long-term renters and want to stay,” Cherrington said. “As long as they follow the rules, they can stay. They’re clean. They’re pretty good renters.”

Renter Brenda Thompson said she appreciates what Cherrington’s


“He got rid of all the trouble, the problems everybody caused, thieves running from the cops all the time.”

She explained that people would run across the property to the stream and tracks below to escape police.

The problems, she said, were 24-7. She would just keep to herself and stay quiet in the nine years she has lived there.

“You’ve just got to deal with everybody coming there and taking your stuff,” she said.

Today, just a few months later, she could leave her apartment unlocked and wide open, and nobody would bother anything, she said.

“It’s nice and quiet,” Thompson said. “It’s peaceful. It’s awesome.

I love it.”

Cherrington said what he does attracts good renters. Good renters pay higher rents, and they stay longer, which makes the apartments easier to manage.

“My philosophy in rentals is I try to have the nicest rentals,” he said.

On the bottom line, the landlord is better off than trying to manage run-down property, he said. Turnover is the biggest threat to the bottom line in rentals.

Property that isn’t maintained well attracts bad renters and drug dealers who don’t stay as long.

In between renters, the landlord has to make repairs and clean.

With higher turnover, that’s more time the unit isn’t producing revenue. Cherrington bought the property and is doing what he can to improve it, but he is thankful to the Sweet Home Police Department

for assisting.

“Chief (Jeff) Lynn has been great to work with,” he said. “It was helpful, the way they changed trespassing.”

When he bought the property, he had to trespass people constantly, Cherrington said. He said it really helped that the police changed the way they were handling trespassing. Under an older interpretation, Cherrington might trespass someone. A renter could foil that by inviting the same person back onto the property.

Now, the police recognize that trespassers have to cross the common area of the apartment to reach their hosts, Cherrington said. They began recognizing that as trespassing. Cherrington has had about 20 people trespassed from the property.

“It really got stressful,” he said, adding that there were confrontations.

Now the neighborhood is quieter.

“At night, it’s much better than it used to be,” he said.

The property across the street, 1237 Nandina St., has been cleaned up under the city’s enforcement of its nuisance property ordinance.

One unit remains with a drug dealer, he said, although multiple people have keys to another unit that is unoccupied, and they keep using it.

Other rentals in the neighborhood, like Kingwood Apartments, are professionally managed and experienced a reduction in problems years ago.

He urged the council two weeks ago to continue using the chronic nuisance ordinance there and to use it elsewhere in Sweet

Home where a neighborhood has problems with crime and drug dealers. He is concerned that 1237 Nandina St. will return to its former condition once the terms of the ordinance are met.

Cherrington said he wasn’t looking for a project like Nandina Street originally.

“There was a project in Salem that was in a better neighborhood – no drugs,” he said. He made an offer, but he didn’t get it. “Something

told me there was something better.”

He believes it was divine providence that brought him to this property, he said.

“When I saw how bad it was, when I saw what the situation in this neighborhood was, I thought I have to go the extra mile.”

With rentals, the thing that upsets him most is when a landlord accepts cash rent from a tenant while knowing the source of the cash is from dealing drugs. As far as he is concerned, the landlord

is responsible, part of the drug dealing.

The law holds landlords responsible for mold or repairs in

a rental unit, he said, but with drugs, “they’re not liable. They get

away with it.”

If the city can enforce its ordinance, it’ll improve things throughout town, he said. Salem condemns property constantly.

“The best way to deal with criminals is to mess with their homes,” Cherrington said. Ultimately, when they’ve had too many convictions, not even the worst landlords will rent to them.

“If you really want to get to them, you’ve got to evict them. That’s why I’m looking forward to the new habitability code.”

Drug dealers and meth addicts seek out run-down property because it shows that the landlord doesn’t care, he said. They can get away with their activities when a landlord doesn’t care.

It frustrates him because it’s a health and safety issue.

“They don’t care. They want money. It really reflects a lot on that person’s character.”

Financial profit is his goal as well, he noted. He purchased the property as an investment.

But, he said, he will not rent out an apartment where he wouldn’t live. That means fixing them up.

The apartments were constructed sometime in the 1940s, Cherrington said.

By the time he’s done with them, they’ll have floors, cabinets and more.

“It’ll be like a brand new place,” he said. He has no concerns about marketing his apartments on Nandina Street.

“There’s plenty of people looking for a place to live,” Cherrington

said. “There’s no reason someone has to rent to a drug



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