A growing trend in home rentals is leaving some Tampa Bay area tenants with a headache. They say it's nearly impossible to get big company landlords to fix any problems.
"It's unbelievable. Unbelievable," said renter Rey Gonzalez.
That's how he describes what it's like to deal with his landlord American Homes 4 Rent. He's had troubles from the day he moved into his Brandon home.
"I'm not confident in their response to help, address themselves and fix it," Gonzalez said.
In three years, he's dealt with five different property managers. Gonzalez says he is fed up with late fees even when he's got proof of on-time rent payment, and how hard it is to reach anyone with the company.
Similar concerns are echoed in hundreds of complaints to the Better Business Bureau and on Facebook pages. Some people are even threatening lawsuits against the company.
"They always deflect responsibility to another person or another department," said Gonzalez.
His biggest frustration is getting the company to come and fix problems with the home. Last year, his circuit breaker melted apart.
"There's a lot of fear. I have three small children. I was told that panel was overheated and practically caught fire or something. It was a huge concern that i wasn't getting responded to get it fixed," Gonzalez said.
His home is new enough, he finally decided to contact the builder and they responded right away. An electrician says the repairs look good, but there are still other issues. An expert found problems with nearly every light switch and outlet.
"They really should put the wires around the screw and tighten it up on each device," said Manny Polizzi with Electric Today.
It's called back-stabbing an outlet, and it's a common shortcut in wiring new homes that can cause a lot of headaches.
"For the most part it's just going to be a big inconvenience of losing power, lights flickering. It could cause some damage in the long run that burn out the switches, could arc, and theoretically could catch on fire," Polizzi said.
Polizzi's advice is to get a thorough home inspection before signing on the dotted line.
"A home inspector will do a full four point inspection on everything...Check your a/c, roof, plumbing and electrical. Any time buying a home, it's well worth the money to have that done, even if you're just going to rent a home. If you have a family, you want them to be in there and be safe," said Polizzi.
Give the inspection report to your landlord and demand any issues get fixed before move-in, and put it in writing.
It's something Rey Gonzalez wishes he would've done. Now he's just hoping others will do their homework before renting a home.
We contacted American Homes 4 Rent. They told us they don't comment publicly on individual tenant complaints, but released the following statement:
"We attempt to resolve these complaints amicably. If the complaint is valid, then we review our process to see how we can handle similar situations in the future in a more positive manner."
The state of Florida has also received complaints about the company. It encourages anyone with concerns to report them to the state Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services at 1-800-HELP-FLA. More resources are also available here: http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Consumer-Services/Consumer-Resources/Consumer-Protection/Landlord-Tenant-Law-in-Florida