JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Rats, roaches, mold and fire hazards: those issues have been the basis of complaints from residents who live at two government-subsidized apartment complexes on Jacksonville’s Eastside.
New reports from city inspectors found those issues and more following a blitz from regulators earlier this week.
Inspectors from the city of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development visited the complexes Tuesday for a surprise checkup.
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The News4Jax I-TEAM began reporting on the complaints from residents in April, which prompted U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and his team to call for immediate action. A HUD inspection failed both properties, with Eastside Terrace scoring 6 out of 100 and Eastside Gardens scoring 24 out of 100.
When News4Jax visited the properties again on Friday, there was a flurry of activity.
JFRD’s fire marshal was back on site as a private fire alarm and sprinkler system contractor worked inside one of the buildings. An inspector from Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation was doing an investigation regarding the lodging license.
A commercial pest control technician was going door to door with the complex’s manager, spraying for bugs and setting rodent traps.
“I had no idea, I’ve lived in Jacksonville all my life, for the last six years I’ve been up and down the streets,” said City Council member Reggie Gaffney, who represents District 7, which encompasses both complexes.
Gaffney met News4Jax at the site, saying he had no idea how bad conditions were inside the units where residents had for months complained of roaches, rats and mold.
“My goal is to bring awareness to my colleagues into the city and to see what kind of resources we have to make their life better,” Gaffney told the I-TEAM.
The I-TEAM requested inspection reports from the city and see code violations for every unit they looked at: from rodent infestations to mold and mildew to plumbing and electrical problems.
The city has sent the owner, Andrew Podray of Palm Beach, dozens of warning citations, demanding he fix the problems.
JFRD’s fire marshal documented potentially life-threatening findings, like a broken fire wall, no carbon monoxide detectors, unpermitted installation of equipment, flammable waste storage, and a non-working fire alarm and sprinkler system.
The full report is expected to be released next week.
Building inspectors did not find any major structural problems.
As News4Jax was on the property with Gaffney, there were dirty air conditioning filters lying on the ground in the common area and an adhesive trap with a dead mouse, roaches and ants stuck to it.
“This should not be out here in the open like this where kids go to walk out of their house and see this,” Gaffney said. “I don’t know if this happened 10 minutes ago or two days ago, but it shouldn’t be here. If you close it down, where they (the tenants) going? And that’s what we need to think about as leaders.”
Podray, the properties’ owner, faces $600,000 in federal fines for two failed HUD inspections.
He told News4Jax on Tuesday that he’s trying to fix up the properties but doesn’t make enough money from them to get the properties up to par.