JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The owner of Eureka Gardens could face fines of up to $500 per violation for units that failed re-inspection this week, city attorneys said.
The residents of the troubled apartment complex are calling for those hefty fines to be levied against the Rev. Richard Hamlet, founder of Global Ministries Foundation, because the condition of dozens of apartments still violate the law.
Tenants have been dealing with mold, crumbling stairways and gas leaks at the complex for months. It's been weeks since a News4Jax investigation helped prompt a city code enforcement sweep that revealed deplorable conditions. Inspectors entered 165 units during the two-day sweep and found violations in 163 of them. Of those, three were tenant violations. The rest were the responsibility of the landlord.
The city began re-inspecting the complex this week and found 37 of 103 units scheduled for re-inspection were still not up to code.
Thirty-eight units passed inspection Thursday, and their cases were considered closed.
Another 28 units were not inspected, because the tenant was either not home or refused access to inspectors.
The city also noted that 21 stairways failed inspection.
Because Hamlet could face $500 for each violation, if one apartment has three or four violations, Hamlet could be looking at thousands of dollars per apartment.
Residents want the city to hit Hamlet where it hurts.
“He should be fined, heavily fined,” Barbara Everhart said.
Everhart said she’s finally seeing some progress on her roof and on the ground, where contractors are trying to make repairs.
Everhart said the fixes have been a long time coming.
“I called 18 times, 18 times I called to the office and reported this every time,” Everhart said. “And one time, I went and reported it face to face.”
Time is running out for Eureka Gardens property managers, who will soon have attend a special magistrate hearing.
At the hearing, a city attorney sits as a judge and hears evidence from property managers and evidence from the city. The attorney determines how many violations still exist and which ones failed to be fixed by the deadline, which could result in daily rolling civil fines of $500 per violation.
“Hold him to his word. You have to be accountable,” resident Gunean Hooks said. “Everyone is accountable with whatever it is that they do.”
Hooks said her roof has been leaking for the past two years, and every complaint up until now has gone unheeded.
“I'm noticing now that roofs are being repaired, the stairwells are being repaired, and everything that should have been done a long time ago,” Hooks said.
The city is not finished re-inspecting Eureka Gardens. The next round of inspections is scheduled for Monday, which is why the city has yet to schedule the special magistrate hearing. When that hearing occurs, it will be open to the public.