Confusion, anger for dozens evicted from Jacksonville apartment complex

36 households seeking assistance after 8 apartment buildings condemned

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Dozens of residents evicted from buildings condemned at a Northwest Jacksonville apartment complex Tuesday are being told they need permits from the city to enter and retrieve their belongings.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the city of Jacksonville's Drug Abatement Response Team raided Shannon Ridge Apartments in the 5100 block of Shenandoah Avenue, eventually condemning eight of the 19 buildings -- a total of 63 apartment units.

The city says code enforcement inspectors found mold/mildew, unsanitary conditions, major infestation of roaches, improper or illegal wiring stoves not working, improperly installed water heaters, no smoke detectors, non-permitted plumbing and electrical work, and "structures unfit for human habitation."

One building had a collapsed ceiling that had allowed a bat infestation.

Mary Knight said she's "mad as hell" that she lived with with the problems for years, and now they've got nowhere to live.

"I've been asking them for two years to fix my apartment, and they never fixed it, so they condemned it," Knight said. "They done cut the lights off. You can't live in your home; you ain't got no lights."

Almost every resident displaced had a similar story.

"My place was infested with roaches when I moved in," resident Jerome Atkins said. "I spent the weekend killing pests with no hot water. Monday night my air conditioner went off. I was going to complain about that, but I did not have a chance to do that because code enforcement showed up Tuesday morning."

Some of the anger residents felt toward the property manager on Tuesday is now directed at the city, which is telling residents they have to get a permit to get back in their apartments to retrieve their personal belongings, and they only have three days to do so or they could be fined.

"There is a letter from the city saying I have to go down to code enforcement to get a pass to get my stuff out or I will be fined $500," said resident Jerome Atkins, who just moved in to his apartment last Thursday. "On top of that, I walk into the leasing office and asked them about refunding the money I paid to move in, and they tell me my money is not refundable when the building got condemned on their watch."

Apartment management did say Wednesday that residents who paid rent will get money back. They said the current owners purchased the site eight weeks ago and have begun renovations.

The property manager said he knew there were problems and was making changes. He said he was not aware of the code violations until Tuesday, and he's waiting to get answers from the city, but is not sure what the next step will be.

The city said 36 households sought temporary assistance from the city, and a handful of people stayed Tuesday night at a Red Cross shelter set up at the request of the city at Legends Center near Soutel Drive.

The city said the apartments have been a problem for years. The Sheriff's Office said last year it received nearly 600 calls about the complex. Of those calls, 123 were for disputes, 38 for noise complaints, 20 for suspicious people and 18 for discharging firearms.

Two people were arrested Tuesday at the complex on outstanding warrants.

DART inspections can often end in the condemnation of an apartment complex, forcing it to shut down.

State officials inspected the apartment twice before, once in 2010 and again in February. They did not find any problems then, saying the complex met inspections standards, according to records.

Displaced residents who apply for assistance can receive aid for a deposit or utilities for another residence, up to $1,250. The Jacksonville Transportation Authority provided transportation assistance.

Records show the complex is owned by a Miami-based company, Jorkin Jax LLC, that purchased the complex in June. Brown said the property is managed by American Management in Atlantic Beach.

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