Says, ‘they not only deceived the tenants, but they broke the law’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced a lawsuit against Big Country Chateau, a multifamily housing complex serving low-income and Section 8 housing consumers in Little Rock, for violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA). The suit alleges that the complex is supported by central utility meters for water and electricity, requiring the tenants to pay their utilities directly to the apartment complex as part of their lease agreements. Despite many tenants paying accordingly, the company chose to pocket the money designated for utility payments instead of paying the utility companies. As early as 2019, Big Country Chateau received notice from Central Arkansas Water that its account was in default. The company has failed to pay the $222,931 owed to the utility company. In addition, Big Country Chateau failed to pay Entergy Arkansas from March to August 2022, paying the outstanding balance of approximately $71,000 only after the City of Little Rock initiated an investigation into the apartment complex. Big Country Chateau’s defaults were easily concealed from tenants due to the disconnection moratoriums in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, tenants are facing water utility shutoffs in September despite having paid for their utilities.
“Big Country Chateau advertised livable homes with working utilities but that is not what they provided Arkansans on fixed incomes,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “When Big Country Chateau did not use the money residents paid for utilities, they not only deceived the tenants, but they broke the law.”
The suit resulted from an extensive investigation by the Attorney General’s Office, most notably highlighted by a July 27, 2022 inspection by state and local officials. The complaint alleges that Big Country Chateau defrauded tenants of the money designated for utility payments, as well as violated the ADTPA when it leased the housing units to the public, despite failing to ensure the units met adequate standards required by Arkansas law and city ordinances. The lawsuit also names Big Country Chateau’s parent company, Apex Equity Group, a New Jersey based multi-state real estate developer and property management group. The company faces a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.