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City of Tampa investigating apartment complex for claims of illegal charges, poor conditions

Posted at 9:59 PM, Jul 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-18 05:00:41-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Councilman Luis Viera says he's had his eye on the Timberfalls apartment complex for about a year — due to complaints about the conditions.

"[There were] very poor conditions obviously, you know, leaky roofs, mold," Viera said.

And these days, tenants said the problems haven't changed.

"I've been having problems with my window. When you pull it up, the whole thing backs up on you," said Lesley Dupont-Parker.

"I had rats, I had spiders, roaches crawling all over the place," said Amalia McCray.

“There were mushrooms growing there where the paint is at. They just took it out and painted it," said Darlene Smith.

While filming at the complex, the ABC Action News crew noticed rat traps outside each unit and one apartment that is abandoned and filled with mold-covered walls.

On top of the conditions, tenants now say they're being hit with three-day notices asking them to pay thousands in back rent and fees or leave.

"They put notes on your door saying you owe this and you owe that and it's ridiculous," said Dupont-Parker.

Smith’s letter shows that she owes close to $1,100, despite having moved in just a few months ago.

"I have a voucher, and they said that they paid it, and I paid my portion," Smith said.

Angry tenants made their way to a Tampa city council meeting Thursday to ask for help. Some told the council they know for a fact that they don't owe any money, and others claim that they need a little more time to pay.

The city council voted to have the city's legal department look into these claims and have city code enforcement handle complaints. ABC Action News tried speaking with the complex's new management team in person Friday, but no one answered us.

However, Councilman Viera, who represents that district, said he was able to have a conversation with them.

"I recall they rescinded the eviction notices for people on Section 8 because a lot of that, allegedly, comes from Section 8," he said.

Councilman Viera said it's a start.

“In my opinion, we still have a long way to go. Again, telling people that they owe $1,000, $2,000, $3,000 and they have three days to be out, and the people contest that anything is owed. Again something has got to give," Councilman Viera said.

But he also adds that there is still a concern for tenants who do not receive Section 8 and may not have proof they've paid any money owed.

"My fear is that a lot of these people are going to fall through the cracks, right. Who keeps their receipts?" he said.

It's a situation that's also drawing some comparison to the embattled Silver Oaks apartment complex, which is being investigated for toxic living conditions—and has drawn the attention of state and federal leaders.

ABC Action News asked Councilman Viera if he felt that the investigation into Timberfalls would be escalated in the same way, but he says it's too soon to speculate.

"When it comes to this issue of Timberfalls, I want to make sure to be responsible, aggressive, and apply a lot of scrutiny to it and what not. And my actions are narrowly tailored to the residents," he said. "And if it's the city doing it, the county, the state, the federal government, the united nations, heaven up above, whoever can get it done, let's get it done. That's my message."

In the meantime, people still living at Timberfalls said they're hoping for some good news soon.

"Everybody here is just stuck, stuck here in this mess," said Dupont-Parker.

Councilman Viera also tells ABC Action News that he will be going with code enforcement on Monday to visit the complex.