Rodent-plagued residents take their fight to court

Tenants at Hilltop Village Apartments, a government-subsidized complex in Northwest Jacksonville that have been reporting problems with rodents for the past year have now asked a judge to force the owner to move them until the mice infestation is fixed.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tenants at Hilltop Village Apartments who have been reporting problems with rodents for the past year at their government-subsidized complex in Northwest Jacksonville have now asked a judge to force the owner to move them until the mice infestation is fixed.

The I-TEAM has been reporting on the rodent problem at the apartments since late April, prompting city and federal inspections of the property.

Saying the landlord hasn’t done enough to get rid of the mice still running rampant inside their apartment, a group of them filed a lawsuit last week asking a judge to force the landlord to pay for them to live somewhere else until the infestation is addressed.

They’re worried about their children getting sick from the rodent droppings.

Sedricia Tinsley, one of the first mothers to share video of mice inside her apartment with News4Jax, sent us a photo from Sunday showing a mouse caught in a trap she set in her apartment. She dragged it outside to get it away from her kids.

Another tenant, Sanita Bozeman, said rodents are still a problem for her, too. She sent recent pictures of three mice caught in her apartment -- one that had crawled into a re-sealable bag in her kitchen.

Two tenants send photos of mice taken Monday morning: Simone Thomas, who said she caught mice in her air conditioning closet and next to her refrigerator, and another woman who said she had also found two mice in the last 24 hours.

“The steps that the landlord is taking are not working,” said Mary DeVries, division chief of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid’s Housing Unit. DeVries prepared the lawsuit filed last week against SP Hilltop Village L.P. -- the company that owns the complex -- on behalf of the tenants who live in the 200 apartments on the property.

“We’re asking the court to enter an order requiring the landlord to re-house all tenants while the infestation is being cured. We are also asking the court to control and monitor the work to ensure that the infestation is cured,” DeVries said.

DOCUMENT: Tenants v. SP Hilltop Village LP

It’s the latest step to try to force the landlord to do the right thing. After the I-TEAM’s first story aired in April, the mayor’s office sent 14 code enforcement inspectors to the property, where they documented 286 violations in 62 apartments, with a mice infestation noted in 32 of them.

The property manager told us five weeks ago that they were addressing the problem, but gave no specifics other than saying they have “signed contracts.”

Tenants said nothing the property manager has done is working.

“The work that management has been doing appears to involve caulking or sealing the exterior holes in the property and interior holes on the property, but what our clients are telling us is that the mice are simply chewing through the caulk and coming back into their units,” DeVries said.

People familiar with the infestation have suggested the only real solution to get rid of all of the mice is to tent the apartments and poison them.

We’ve been told the property manager has allocated $111,986 for outside pest control and an additional commitment of up to $144,000 for interior pest control. Tenting has not been mentioned as a treatment option.

The I-TEAM has asked the property manager to comment on the lawsuit, but we had not received a response by Monday afternoon.

About the Author:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.