Nine families are in new homes after ABC Action News exposed landlord

TAMPA BAY - The trailers at 5004 North 19th Street are different colors, but all have one shade in common: neon orange.

Nine of the 18 trailers are condemned, action the city took after we aired a story last November.

"My skin used to crawl handing him the money because you were paying for nothing," explained Lakysha Ellison. "I could've easily just gotten a cardboard box and just laid in it."

Ellison showed us her trailer a couple months ago, surrounded by rotted walls where she did homework with her four kids beside an oven for heat.

Their fridge blocked a gaping entrance for everything outside.

"Trying to watch over your kids," Ellison said. "Make sure no spider bites them, no rats get to them, or big cockroaches don't fly in their ears."

Ross Capelliti, owner of Greenpark Residences, racked up $10,000 in fines for decades of code violations. Somehow, he still rented to low-income families.

"Probably one of the worst that I've seen in my time here with the city of Tampa," said Tampa Neighborhood Services Director Jake Slater.

Rhonda Daniels had just moved in a week earlier and paid $400 for rent. She says Capelliti told her not to let anyone inside the trailer, and promised to fix the problems, but never did.

"Trying to bribe me that if I signed the back of the lease saying that he was a good landlord that he'd do this and that," Daniels said.

When code enforcement showed up, Daniels decided to tell the truth about her living conditions.

"I willingly showed them every little thing that was wrong. I said, 'Look, right here, right here, right here, right here," she explained.

Code enforcement officers told Daniels and Ellison's family that they had to find a new place to live.

But then the eviction date came and went without the money the city promised to help them with relocation.

Ellison's family stayed in the trailer. Daniels was homeless.

"we didn't realize there were going to be as many obstacles that came up," Slater said. "there were definitely lessons learned. In the future, we will be overall better prepared."

Today, all the families have new homes, walls without holes, doors that lock, even air conditioning and heat.

"The trailer was ready to fall down and now I have a house that's going to stand up," Daniels said.

Ellison's kids were the most excited about the change.

"Mommy, we love it. I'm so happy that we moved," she remembered they said. "The people helped us move."

The city plans to demolish all of the condemned homes.

Ellison hopes it's soon.

"I don't want another family to have to go through what me and my family went through," she said. "It's not right."

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