On its website for The Park at Napoli, property management firm Blue Roc Premiere describes the Winter Park apartment complex as “luxury living” with five-star amenities and spacious floor plans, but a cluster of tenants described conditions at the site as unhealthy, citing black mold and cockroaches.
“As we started to walk around the complex, we realized that there were actually a lot of problems here,” said Courtney Ring, tenant and founder of Orlando Tenant Power, who has organized more than two dozen of frustrated Naples tenants and enlisted state representative Carlos Guillermo Smith. .
The Orlando Democrat, who proposed legislation in 2019 to give tenants more rights, visited the property near Full Sail University to help residents deal with the unresponsive landlord company, which tenants say , was quick to assess fines but slow to resolve issues.
“I called the office and hung up for asking simple questions, so I showed up in person. The Blue Roc management team ripped my head off and asked me to leave,” Smith said in Twitter posts, “This is wrong and is one of the reasons we need a state and local tenants bill of rights.”
New tenant Tayha Baez, 18, who moved in with her toddler son Fenix into a $1,500-a-month apartment in Naples about a month ago, said she found black mold, Cockroaches, fleas and dog hair in both bedroom, one bath unit. “I was told it was a luxury, move-in ready apartment that had just passed inspection the day before supposedly,” the young mum said. “There’s no way.”
Baez said when she called the rental office, she was ignored.
Fearing that the mold would harm her baby, she considered filing a complaint.
“But I don’t know any good lawyers who aren’t thousands and thousands of dollars,” said Baez, who works at Wawa.
The company did not respond to repeated calls to its offices.
In a press release, Orlando Tenant Power said Blue Roc Management routinely ignores complaints from tenants.
“Maintenance is constantly understaffed, if at all. More often than not, it is staffed by workers who are unqualified to handle urgent issues on the property, including mold,” according to the advocacy group, which emailed a statement to the Orlando Sentinel. “Tenants saw mold being painted over instead of being removed. These mold problems are costing tenants their health.
The statement says mold in rental properties should be taken seriously and professionally remedied.
“Upon the first report of mold, management should act quickly to hire a state-licensed professional mold remediation service to handle any mold issues on the property,” he said. “This service should be coordinated with tenants and should not incur any cost to the tenant.”
Baez said the company offered him another apartment last week, but charged him a second security deposit and late fees.
The second unit also had black mold, she said.
“Why would you force us to move our things from one moldy apartment to make it look like you’re helping us move to another moldy apartment?” Baez said.
Indoor mold can cause a wide range of health problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“In some people, mold can cause a stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing or wheezing, burning eyes, or a rash. People with asthma or mold allergies can have severe reactions,” according to the CDC’s website, which offers several tips for eliminating it.
The CDC points out that mold grows where there is moisture – around leaks in roofs, windows or pipes.
It will grow on paper, cardboard, ceiling tiles and wood; in dust, paints, wallpapers, drywall, carpets, fabrics and upholstery.
Airborne mold is “normal,” according to the Florida Department of Health.
“On the other hand, warns the agency’s website, mold should not be allowed to grow and multiply indoors. When this happens, your level of exposure can increase, increasing your risk of potential health problems. … Mold needs to eat to survive, and it’s perfectly happy to eat your home if you let it.
Lawmaker Smith said the state health department has no regulatory authority over mold or indoor air quality.
If the owners don’t fix the problem, your option is to sue, Smith said.
“Proposals to fix this problem have never been heard in Tallahassee because lawmakers are in bed with business owners,” he said on Twitter.
In 2019, Smith proposed Bill HB 1283 to grant more rights to tenants.
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The legislation, which died in a civil justice subcommittee, would have required landlords to give at least 30 days’ notice of a rent increase; prohibit discrimination against prospective tenants on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity; and required pre-occupancy inspection by a landlord to ensure compliance with national and local health and safety codes.
Smith and other Democratic lawmakers have said their bills are driven by the state’s affordable housing crisis.
Orange County commissioners also discussed developing local rules to better protect tenants.
The council has scheduled a public workshop in September to develop a proposed “tenants’ bill of rights”, spokeswoman Despina McLaughlin said.
Commissioners Emily Bonilla, Maribel Gomez Cordero, Mayra Uribe and Nicole Wilson plan to meet at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in a “sunny” meeting to discuss three topics, including Bonilla’s proposed “rent stabilization” order. , which must be approved by voters in November.
With Orlando metro rent up 30% from last year, Bonilla’s proposal would limit rent increases in 2023 to 5% or the 12-month average of the price index at consumption, whichever is lower. The measure would be in effect for a year unless extended by voters in a second election in November 2023.