Sen. Rubio wants more HUD checks following I-TEAM reports on Hilltop Village

Letter asks HUD to inspect all properties in Florida managed by Cambridge Management Inc.

Our News4JAX I-TEAM investigation "Rodent Residential" has led to a push for more HUD inspections statewide.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Our I-TEAM investigation into the mice infestation at Hilltop Village Apartments in Northwest Jacksonville has helped uncover a statewide problem.

Hilltop Village Apartments is an affordable housing complex managed by Cambridge Management, Inc., and now, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is calling on HUD to inspect the dozens of properties managed by Cambridge Management across the state of Florida.

After our first report on Hilltop Village in April, the Florida senator sent his own team to see the deplorable conditions and speak to residents, which prompted his first letter to HUD, calling on the federal agency to take action to ensure problems were fixed at Hilltop Village -- pointing out that HUD had not inspected that property since 2015. Despite the lack of inspections in the years following, the owner was paid more than $5 million in federal money. Rubio’s office continued to look into Cambridge Management, Inc. and sent HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge a new letter this week stating it’s not just Hilltop Village Apartments that’s been neglected.

WATCH: Tenant waits 359 days for city to take action after reporting mice infestation

In the letter, Rubio lists seven other Florida properties managed by Cambridge Management, Inc. which have failed their last inspections. Those properties are located in Miami, Pembroke Pines, Tampa, Titusville and Quincy. Rubio said his team witnessed unsafe and unsanitary conditions at the properties, but over the last two years, HUD has provided all seven properties more than $17.5 million in federal financial assistance.

  • Silver Oaks Apartments in Tampa was last inspected on March 6, 2020, with a failing score of 40/100
  • Lincoln Fields Apartments in Miami was last inspected on March 6, 2020, with a failing score of 44/100
  • BCC Apartments in Miami was last inspected on March 10, 2020, with a failing score of 45/100
  • Gadsden Arms Apartments in Quincy was last inspected on Dec. 11, 2019, with a failing score of 47/100
  • Pembroke Tower Apartments in Pembroke Pines was last inspected on Oct. 17, 2018, with a failing score of 53/100
  • Jackson Heights in Tampa was last inspected on Aug. 10, 2019, with a failing score of 55/100
  • Emerald Place Apartments in Titusville was last inspected on Dec. 20, 2019, with a failing score of 57/100

Rubio points out in his letter that since the Pembroke Pines property hasn’t been inspected since 2018, HUD appears to have violated its own Uniform Physical Condition Standards for failing properties, which requires inspections to be performed within one year. He goes on to say the delay isn’t due to COVID-19 since Pembroke Tower Apartments should have been inspected before the pandemic began.

“I urge that immediate action be taken at these properties to ensure that tenants are afforded the living conditions they are guaranteed by law. This would include both new REAC [Real Estate Assessment Center] inspections, and Management and Occupancy Reviews (MOR) for all properties managed by Cambridge Management, Inc. throughout the State of Florida, and the enforcement of any applicable penalties, with priority given to safety and sanitation concerns,” Rubio wrote.

Rubio and his staff have worked closely with the I-TEAM following our initial investigation into Hilltop Village Apartments and its property manager, Cambridge Management, Inc. He sent this email to us:

“The fact that Cambridge Management has several other properties throughout Florida, in addition to Hilltop Village Apartments, with failing inspection scores is totally unacceptable. The pandemic does not provide an excuse for unsafe and unsanitary living conditions, and I will continue to work to ensure that property managers are held accountable and HUD inspections are scheduled according to federal regulation. I am grateful to the investigative team at News4Jax for drawing attention to the chronically poor living conditions at Hilltop Village Apartments – their initial reporting was instrumental in uncovering the gross mismanagement by Cambridge Management.”

Besides Sen. Rubio, Congressman Al Lawson, Mayor Lenny Curry’s office, and Jacksonville City Councilmember Ju’Coby Pittman -- who represents the district where Hilltop Village Apartments is located – have all been working to get the problems fixed at Hilltop and help those living there. Last week, the city council approved emergency legislation to allot a little more than $140.000 to help some of the tenants sickened by the living conditions move to another location. Those tenants are being contacted directly by Pittman’s office.

About the Authors:

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