ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Waypoint Homes is a multi-billion-dollar landlord of single family homes, renting more than 10,000 houses in Florida alone.
But as the ABC Action News I-Team first uncovered more than a year ago, the company has a high number of tenant complaints, which has sparked a national investigation by ABC News and its local stations.
Tenants say Waypoint is slow to make repairs, but quick to file evictions.
And as Waypoint prepares to more-than double its size in Tampa Bay through an upcoming merger, renters worry the company will become even less responsive.
“It’s been ongoing issues with the sink and the bathroom going back and forth, the dishwasher,” said Susan Strahsmeier, pointing out issues with her St. Petersburg, Florida rental home.
The house is one of nearly 4,000 foreclosed or distressed properties Waypoint bought after the housing market collapse.
“Obviously, the house was clearly not ready to be rented at all,” Strahsmeier said about her rental home.
The city cited Waypoint for multiple code violations at the home, including holes in the wall, plumbing issues and a rusty water heater that city said was illegal.
During an energy audit of her home, Duke Energy also determined the wrong size circuit breaker was connected to the water heater.
“This is the one that could have melted down on the panel and caused the whole house to go in flames,” Strahsmeier said, showing us the breaker which was eventually replaced.
Waypoint has a history of maintenance issues in Tampa Bay regions, from broken air conditioners, to mold, to leaky roofs, to insect infestations.
One tenant told us to get a termite infestation addressed, she made “dozens of phone calls, dozens of requests, dozens of emails.”
Her problem was only resolved after the city got involved.
But the company says those dissatisfied customers are in the minority.
They directed us to the website Trust Pilot, where unfiltered responses to surveys are posted.
That site shows about 70 percent of Waypoint customer reviews are positive.
Currently, the company gets a “D+” rating from the Better Business Bureau, up from an “F” last year.
The main reason for complaints was problems with products and services and billing issues.
Waypoint also posts testimonial videos from happy customers on its website.
“Everyone is very helpful, kind, considerate. I had no problem at all,” said one customer.
“You call them any time, the needs are met immediately,” said another tenant.
Waypoint recently announced plans to merge with Invitation Homes, creating a $20 Billion company, which would more than double its rental home inventory in Tampa Bay.
“Now it's like a game of monopoly. You go rent a home and you don't know what you're gonna get,” Strahsmeier said.
Strahsmeier sued Waypoint, depositing rent payments with the court until her issues were resolved.
“The rent should be reduced due to the failure to make these necessary repairs in a timely manner,” her attorney said in Pinellas County Eviction Court.
Waypoint counter-sued her, claiming she owed money for fees and utilities.
“We were left with no alternative but to go forward with a two-count complaint. one for eviction, one for damages,” said Tampa attorney Douglas Gregory, who has represented Waypoint Homes in nearly 200 Tampa Bay area eviction cases so far this year.
Waypoint starts the eviction process on the sixth of the month if rent isn't paid in full.
Strahsmeier settled her case.
Waypoint gave her a $1,400 credit toward future rent, and she agreed to pay utility fees and surrender the rent she paid to the court.
Strahsmeier also signed a non-disparagement agreement, agreeing not to say anything negative about Waypoint in the future.
Our interview was before she went to court.
“You got a lot of hardworking people out here that are really doing the right thing, and make a living and want to pay their bills every month and they want to be comfortable,” Strahsmeier said. “And they make it very uncomfortable for people. “