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Rubio introduces bill to reform HUD inspection process following I-TEAM report

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, has introduced a bill to reform the Housing and Urban Development Department’s inspection process and to hold landlords accountable.

It comes after an I-TEAM investigation into Jacksonville-area HUD apartment complexes, where residents have faced issues including rodent infestations, overflowing garbage, mold and other issues. The complexes -- Eastside Terrace Apartments and Eastside Gardens Apartments -- are two Section 8 apartments with the same owner.

Another I-TEAM report exposed a mice infestation at Hilltop Village Apartments, which is also a Section 8 property. Both stories got the attention of Rubio, who visited the complexes with his staff.

The new bill, which is cosponsored by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, requires HUD to publish a report every year for all properties scoring less than a 65 out of 100. The lowest passing score is 60.

LINK: HUD Inspection Reform and Capital Improvement Act

It puts into law a timeline for when properties must be inspected, based on their score. And it strengthens HUD’s ability to enforce health and safety standards.

Rubio has said the conditions at Eastside Terrace Apartments and Eastside Gardens Apartments were “stomach churning.” Both properties failed recent HUD reinspections, with Eastside Terrace getting a score of 6, and Eastside Gardens getting a 24.

After the I-TEAM told the Rubio’s office about the conditions at Hilltop Village, his staff visited and called for an immediate reinspection by HUD. It got a 61 – just above failing.

Rubio has also called on HUD to inspect several other properties in Florida overseen by Cambridge Management, the company that runs Hilltop Village.

In a statement announcing this proposed legislation, Senator Rubio says: “The horrifying conditions at several HUD properties throughout Florida are the result of severe negligence by HUD. ...We need to protect low income housing residents by ensuring that inspections take place according to a federally-mandated timeline and by holding irresponsible employees accountable for failing to do their jobs.”

About the Authors:

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