The say their landlord ignored them and retaliated against them. Now they’re suing.

By: - May 14, 2021 3:08 pm

Marc Collymore and Ashley Abrams moved to Tempe from Austin, Texas, to be closer to the Mayo Clinic for Collymore’s medical needs, but over the course of several months they would spend more time fighting their landlord than his health issues.

The couple moved into an apartment managed by The Robinson Family Group in Tempe early last year, just before the COVID-19 pandemic started to shut down the state and the country. Collymore and Abrams’ problems at The Tides began immediately. 

Now, they’re suing the complex and the company that owns it, alleging breach of contract and conspiracy to interfere with civil rights. 

The Robinson Family Group operates several apartment complexes across the Valley that operate under a name called “The Tides.” These complexes span across the greater Phoenix area, with locations in Paradise Valley, Tempe, Chandler and Glendale. The company also has Tides locations in Texas. 

In Maricopa County, The Tides was the second largest evictor of renters during the pandemic, with 555 evictions from March 2020 to February 2021. 

The evictions by The Tides are not always an indicator that someone was removed from their home. Evictions can also be appealed or settled between a tenant and a landlord. It is unclear how many of the 555 evictions filed in 2020 resulted in a writ of restitution, the actual order expelling someone from their home.

Collymore and Abrams moved into the community of mostly young white Arizona State University students and quickly began running into problems. The couple are Black, and they began to wonder if some of the problems they faced were due to the fact that they didn’t look like their neighbors. 

On the day they moved in they put in a request for service after noticing that the air conditioning vents were dirty, something that isn’t good for a person with Collymore’s health condition. 

“They would just zero it out or place it as it has been done without actually doing anything for the service,” Abrams said to the Arizona Mirror

“Maybe they were hoping we’d forget or not follow up,” Collymore added. 

But Collymore, who was diagnosed with end stage renal failure, was not going to forget. The couple noticed that the maintenance request had been cancelled, so they made another and eventually the apartment complex’s maintenance workers looked at the vents, but still didn’t clean them. 

Two more weeks would pass without any action, and the staff was well aware of Collymore’s complicated medical issues. They had spoken to the couple about it when they moved in. They also had explained to management about how air quality is an issue for those with kidney issues. 

Eventually, staff at The Tides told the couple that they were not responsible for cleaning the AC vents, so Abrams and Collymore hired a professional to come and do it. The professionals they hired discovered mold. 

“The only stuff I was worried about was his health, especially after we found the mold and the lack of urgency put this all into perspective that this was going to be a long hard road,” Abrams said. 

After the mold was discovered, it took The Tides more than a week to respond to the couple about it. Rather than committing to resolving the problem, the complex said it  wanted an “independent analysis” of the mold samples. 

It wouldn’t be until nine weeks after first reporting issues with their AC unit that The Tides would replace it. But the vents would remain unclean as the company would deem the problem with the unit itself and nothing else. 

That was just the start of their issues. 

In June, 2020, the couple went on a vacation for five days, leaving Abrams’ 2010 Nissan in its assigned parking spot. When they returned, the car was gone and Abrams’ thought it had been stolen. 

They called Tempe Police, who informed them that their car had been towed. The towing company explained that The Tides had requested the car be towed because its registration had expired. However, the couple had recently purchased the car and still it still had Texas registration. 

Staff denied having the car towed and blamed the towing company when Collymore pressed them, but the towing company blamed The Tides. No one seemed to want to take responsibility. Further down in the same parking lot, a broken down car with no license plate or tags has never been towed, Collymore and Abrams noticed. 

This difference in treatment is another part of what has become the couple’s lawsuit. 

“It’s really hard to prove someone’s intent but being someone who is Black your entire life you kind of learn to tell some underlying responses to you just based on your presence,” Collymore said. “I didn’t behave like a ‘normal’ Black guy.”

Attorney Benjamin Rundall said this “isn’t the first complaint” he has heard about The Tides, and said the company is doing everything in its power to avoid accountability. Rundall and Abbie Godles of Tempe based Honor Law Group are representing the couple.

“Even to this day they are avoiding service on that complaint,” Rundall said. 

For Collymore and Abrams, this isn’t about getting back at The Tides. It’s about fairness. 

“This could have been much easier, We’re not someone who is out looking for anything but to be treated fairly and get what we paid for,” Collymore said. 

The couple are seeking a jury trail and are asking for compensatory damages that would be determined at the trail. The Tides and Robinson Group did not respond to a request for comment for this story. 

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.