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Landlord free to rent dangerous building to small business owners

Ceiling begins to collapse on tenants
Posted: 8:43 PM, Dec 01, 2016
Updated: 2016-12-01 20:43:11-05

A local couple pinned their hopes and dreams on a small waterfront business in Port Richey.  Then Marie Kinny and Jimmy Horn lost everything.

Marie Kinny dreamed of turning the rented building into a tiki bar and boat repair business with her husband Jimmy. The dream took a devastating turn with the first hard rain. The building flooded and parts of the ceiling caved in.

We brought in licensed roofer and NARI member Todd Reed for an inspection. Reed who owns Reeds Roofing labeled the building a disaster based on collapsed portions of the roof and the danger it posed to people inside.

But we found there's no law to stop landlords from leasing out dangerous commercial buildings. The city doesn't normally inspect until the business applies for a license to operate.

Meanwhile Marie and Jimmy have lost it all. The lease states the tenants are responsible for repairs. But our experts say the damage to the roof took place long before they moved in earlier this year.

We caught up with the landlord Caleb Walsh by phone. In a written statement he explained. “I rented out the building to be occupied as a place of business storage, but unfortunately the tenants squatted in it even though this is against the law for commercial space.”

This week the landlord evicted the couple over past due rent. After our interview with the building official the city condemned the property. The place will be torn down unless the owner performs extensive renovations.

Meanwhile we have put the couple in contact with social services for emergency assistance.