Since the housing market crash, the way many people rent single family homes has changed.
Local landlords are increasingly being replaced by big corporations, like national real estate investment trust (REIT) Waypoint Homes, which owns 30,000 houses valued at nearly $7 Billion nationwide.
But local tenants tell the I-Team that bigger isn't always better, as they struggle to get things fixed and to keep up with rising rents.
“I saw this beautiful Waypoint homes website which was showing these gorgeous homes that were redone,” said Carmine Coronato.
Coronato, a U.S. Army veteran, rented a Waypoint home for $1565 a month when he moved from New York in 2014.
He soon learned the Sarasota house he rented had been a foreclosure home.
“The house had been sitting unoccupied for five years and had had some squatters who had broken in and were also living in the home. So there was some nastiness going on in the home,” Coronato said.
There were also maintenance issues.
“I move in and the stove doesn't work, the fridge has no shelves in it, dishwasher's broken, plumbing's not working, roof is leaking,” Coronato said.
The list of local unhappy Waypoint tenants is long.
Shaun Fedoris moved out of this Palm Harbor Waypoint home, after an outdated air conditioning system cost him thousands.
“The electric bill was through the roof. It was over $500 a month,” Fedoris said.
A leaking roof caused the ceiling to collapse in a St. Petersburg Waypoint home.
Cell phone video shot in a Tampa Waypoint home shows swarming termites, which finally prompted a call to code enforcement.
“I made dozens of phone calls, or requests, dozens of emails requesting to speak to a property manager,” said former Waypoint tenant Susan Hansen-West.
Another veteran is soon moving out of a Clearwater Waypoint home.
The city recently found multiple code violations there, including work done without permits, electrical hazards and water intrusion, which prompted the tenant to seal off nearly half of the house months ago.
The Pinellas County Health Department went to the home in January and identified mold in several room which presented a potential health hazard.
Waypoint says those problems "reflect only a small fraction of the thousands of residents" the company serves in Florida.
Here is their entire statement:
Providing a high-quality living experience is our top priority. Prior to new move-ins, we take a number of steps to ensure our homes are in good order to minimize or prevent potential issues that may arise. These steps include performing a detailed inspection and thorough quality control screening.
Upon receiving service requests, we aim to promptly address the issue with qualified service technicians. On rare occasions, events outside of our control inhibit our ability to quickly and sufficiently resolve issues. To ensure we are meeting our high service standards, we regularly survey our residents to gauge their satisfaction.
We are proud to report that the vast majority of residents who recently submitted service requests are very satisfied with their experience. In fact, across our national portfolio of more than 30,000 homes less than 1% of our leases are terminated annually as a result of significant service related issues.
The complaints noted by WFTS reflect a small fraction of the thousands of residents we serve in Florida and across the country. We don’t believe they paint an accurate picture of our organization and what we stand for. It’s important to us that all our residents are happy, and we apologize for any instance where this was not the case.
As it relates to our home in Clearwater, we reached an amicable settlement agreement with the resident. We are slated to begin making any necessary repairs once the resident vacates the home at the end of this month.”
The Better Business Bureau gives waypoint an "F" because it has a high number of unresolved complaints.
“Anytime you have a landlord who's not responsive, you're gonna have a major problem,” said attorney Kirk Eason, who has sued Waypoint on behalf of multiple clients.
“Mom and pop, they would want to fix it, because it was their asset. But when someone just buys it from a foreclosure auction or they buy it from bankruptcy, they have very little into it. They have very little motivation to fix these things, because it's a profit machine instead,” Eason said.
Waypoint's most recent financial report shows revenue grew 6.3 percent over the same period last year and the company had a 95 percent occupancy rate.
“There's a lot of places out there that are a lot cheaper,” said Fedoris.
The average price of an available Waypoint rental home in the Tampa region was $1,699 per month when we calculated the data on August 30th.
Coronato moved out of his Waypoint home and bought a new home instead.
“I’ve got three times the house and I'm paying $1,200 a month for a mortgage, with no money down as a veteran. So I got to tell you, it's a no brainer,” he said.
A Waypoint sales agent is now living in the house he used to rent.
If you have a story you’d like the I-Team to investigate, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.