The conditions were barely tolerable.
Tenants living in the 40-unit Cordova Estates apartments in Rancho Cordova had to contend with cockroaches, bedbug infestations and balconies with failing floors.
There were roof leaks, mold, damaged carpets, inadequate heat, dangerous gates on unpermitted laundry rooms and more.
But in recent weeks, 99 people have become the latest tenants to win a legal settlement after being subjected to deplorable rental conditions.
Jessica Rubio Munoz, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Cordova Estates' tenants, said she's pleased to receive her share of the money close to $8,000.
But she said the money can't fully compensate for the losses she and her family suffered while battling illnesses, infestations and mold.
"My son was constantly in the hospital," she said. "He always had rashes."
Her daughter developed a staph infection, she said.
Munoz said she was about to move out last year when she heard about an attorney who would go to bat for besieged residents. Last fall, she contacted the lawyer, Robb Strom of Los Angeles.
Strom filed suit in December in Sacramento Superior Court on behalf of the tenants.
A settlement came last month: $1 million paid for by three insurance companies with policies on behalf of previous owners. Lawyers for the insurance companies did not return calls from The Bee.
The city also pushed hard for improved conditions, inspecting the Croetto Way property more than once. Inspectors found scores of violations.
The out-of-town owners now the former owners were either unknowledgeable about how to fix violations or lacked the money to do the job, said Kerry Simpson, who oversees code enforcement in Rancho Cordova.
Simpson said she's happy for the tenants. But she's also celebrating the fact that after she contacted the bank, the property was put into receivership. That led to foreclosure and cleared the way for a new buyer, one with a track record for successfully turning around distressed properties.
"It's been sold to an owner who purchased and completely rehabbed the Lido Terrace Apartments" across the street from Cordova Estates, Simpson said.
"We renamed it Puerta Villa," said Gary Johnson, one of two brothers who run Acclaim Companies of Menlo Park, a development firm that expanded its focus two years ago to include renovation of distressed properties.
Johnson, who played outfield for the Salt Lake Stingers nearly a decade ago, used to travel to California to play the Sacramento River Cats. He became interested in the capital city.
"We thought Sacramento would be a good place to rehabilitate properties," he said.
The renovation of the 93-unit Puerta Villa was finished last January. The complex is fully leased.
"That's kind of a success story," Johnson said.
Mayor David Sander said the city is working hard to get problem apartment complexes cleaned up.
"We do proactive apartment inspections and we're cleaning up all those apartments that the county left us with" when the city was created in 2003, Sander said.
"The crime rate around old apartment buildings is just atrocious," he added. "In the past three years, with our very aggressive apartment inspection policies, we've caused 11 different apartment complexes to basically gut and rebuild their properties.
"So basically it's raising the quality of life for everyone who lives there."
On Friday, Strom went to the Jalisco Market on Folsom Boulevard, within walking distance of Cordova Estates, and began to distribute settlement checks.
Adults will each net just under $8,000, Strom said. Children will net about $3,500 each.
The rest, about $388,000, will cover court costs and legal fees, Strom said.
Meanwhile, Strom said he has been contacted by about 20 more former Cordova Estates tenants who have requested that he file a follow-up lawsuit on their behalf. And he's close to filing a suit involving another substandard Rancho Cordova apartment complex.
In 2010, Strom and another attorney sued owners of another Rancho Cordova complex, Carriage House, and reached a $1 million settlement in that case. The Carriage House has since changed ownership.