I-TEAM: Rent rate hikes as high as $400; residents asking for help

Dozens of families are reaching out to the News4JAX I-TEAM following an investigation into rising rent in Jacksonville.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dozens of families are reaching out to the News4JAX I-TEAM following an investigation into rising rent in Jacksonville.

Local tenants complain they’re caught in a difficult place financially as their apartment complexes raise their rent.

At the same time, they’re having trouble moving because prices are high everywhere.

Many said the rent prices are higher than they can afford with their current incomes.

According to the Florida Apartment Association, the average monthly rent in the Jacksonville area went from $1,125 in 2020 to $1,411 in 2022.

The average rent in the Jacksonville area has gone up more than $286 in just over two years. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

The group also reported that there are fewer vacant apartments in Jacksonville than in the past and that limited supply is driving up prices.

Jacksonville teacher and new mother Vanessa Baffour-Singletary is dealing with a $400 rent hike at her family’s two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Fort Caroline.

They were paying $809 a month, but she showed a notice left on her door, informing her rent will be increased to $1,232 per month. She said managers then offered a discount of $1,150 per month.

“Absolutely not,” she said, telling News4JAX she isn’t getting her money’s worth. “Especially for somebody that’s been here for 10 years and paid rent on time.”

She pointed out problems in the unit, which she said the owners haven’t fixed — from mold to plumbing issues in the bathroom and kitchen.

“The toilet has overflowed onto the carpet,” she said. “You see this bulge in the carpet? That’s where the toilet leaked.”

Not to mention a rodent problem, according to Baffour-Singletary. She said rats ate through the couch.

The I-TEAM reached out to management about her complaints and received the following response from Riley Davis, regional property manager for Cushman and Wakefield, which manages the property:

“We are aware of the resident’s concerns and have been working with the resident to resolve them. In recent months, we have been working to not only improve individual units but have opened a free daycare and community center for our residents and their families. We have enrolled the community in the Jacksonville police department’s watch group to improve safety for all of our residents. Community amenities have been repaired and improved. Our team has also helped our residents navigate the COVID-19 government relief options, raising over $400,000 in rental assistance for those in need. When we took over management of the community two years ago, the property was rated sub-3.0 on rental sites; through our work, it is now rated at 4.0.”

Despite some tenants at the complex getting government assistance, Baffour-Singletary said her family pays for the unit out of pocket.

“We’ve actually tried to look a lot of places, but I guess rent is just increasing everywhere in Jacksonville,” she said when asked about moving. “So we may be paying $1,200 for this place.”

Nearly 100 families told News4JAX similar stories of rent hikes beyond their budget. Some questioned the legality.

The hikes are legal, but some Florida lawmakers are trying to regulate them.

“We have many families that are living in hotels, living in their cars,” said state Sen. Victor Torres, who represents Central Florida.

He wants cities and counties to be able to control rent and he’s introducing a bill that also says price increases should be incremental.

“And these are working people, working class, it’s a shame this is occurring, and we have to do something about that,” he told the I-TEAM.

Jacksonville City Council President Sam Newby said he wants the power for rent control, but the state must do something first before that happens.

“I definitely think they’re taking advantage of it,” he said, referring to landlords. “Because of the COVID situation and people are moving from up north to Jacksonville.”

“I understand because of inflation you do have to go up a little bit, but three and $400 a month is just absolutely unacceptable,” he added.

Baffour-Singletary hopes leaders do something before her family’s rent increases again.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.