Orlando Landlord Accused of Cheating on Another Family
ORLANDO, Florida – Last month, Kathaleen Jones was at the end of her joke after moving into an Orlando house she described as “uninhabitable.” Florida Beach Coast rental company posted photos online that obscured the true condition of the three-bedroom home, Jones said, blocking them when they tried to seek help from management.
Now Jones is out of the house – but another family has already taken their place.
Wilnise Saint-Clermont has lived on Lake Lawne Avenue for less than two weeks – she moved on April 22nd – but she is already working on an exit plan. Mold, plumbing problems, and pest problems make the home an unsafe environment for her three young children, she said.
“Every time I flush everything that comes from that toilet comes out of the tub and doesn’t go down for an hour or two,” said Saint-Clermont.
City records obtained from Spectrum News show more than a dozen unsolved code violations on the property, including moldy windows, a damaged HVAC system, and a bathtub in need of replacement. According to records, the Orlando Code Enforcement Department began citing the property in February.
Saint-Clermont says she called the town after trying unsuccessfully to clean the house. The responding Code Enforcement Officer confirmed Saint-Clermont’s concerns, she said.
“He came to tell me no, it’s still not the code,” said Saint-Clermont.
Hidden “behind a phone”
Before Saint-Clermont walked in, she said she had a bad feeling about the Florida Beach coastline. It all started when she went to pay her deposit and collect her keys. Saint-Clermont thought she was going to meet her landlord – but the address she was given instead led her to a post office in Gotha, where the company is registered in a PO box.
Already suspicious, Saint-Clermont answered a call from Florida Beach Coast staff telling her the landlord was busy and should transfer the $ 2,000 instead. Saint-Clermont, who moved to Florida from Michigan, said she felt she had no choice.
“I moved here, I need a place,” she recalled.
After Saint-Clermont sent the money, he stopped hearing about the Florida Beach Coast. But she still needed her keys. After persistently texting them, she finally heard back – but the news wasn’t good.
“I got a call … that said, ‘Oh, the house isn’t finished and it’s not the code and it needs to be fixed,” “said Saint-Clermont.
First, Florida Beach Coast told her the job would only take a week. Saint-Clermont tried to calm down; She could stay in a hotel for a week, she thought. But one week turned into two, then three.
“Okay, April is almost over,” recalled Saint-Clermont. “I wrote to you and said I need my money back or I need the keys.” It was only after threatening to call a lawyer that Saint-Clermont finally gave her the keys. She moved in on April 22nd.
From there, further problems arose. The refrigerator was teeming with cockroaches, said Saint-Clermont. The toilet overflows when flushing and appears to flood the bathtub. There’s no stove in the house, though Saint-Clermont was charged a $ 50 fee for one.
Every time she calls Florida Beach Coast, she is billed a $ 50 fee. It’s a written provision in her 33-page lease, but Saint-Clermont doesn’t think she should be accused of failing to notice.
“Nobody thinks if they call their landlord or property manager they’ll backfire or be charged $ 50 for a call,” said Saint-Clermont.
Florida Beach Coast is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, which gives the company an “F” rating online. After Saint-Clermont reflected her concerns in comments on BBB’s website and spoke to Jones, the former renter, she said she felt the Florida Beach Coast had made her move to an unsafe home.
“They think that’s okay because they’re behind a phone … nobody sees them,” said Saint-Clermont. “I don’t know who I’m renting from.”
A pattern of deceptive behavior
Under Florida law, landlords are required to maintain the premises and comply with all applicable building, housing, and health codes. If a landlord does not do this, their tenant can inform them of what is known as a material non-compliance. Seven days after receiving this notification, the tenant can terminate the rental agreement without penalty if the landlord has not yet resolved the problems mentioned. A template available online can help tenants create this notice if necessary.
In addition, Florida’s Misleading and Unfair Trading Practices Act (FDUTPA) protects consumers from “indeterminate, misleading and unfair trading practices”. Real estate attorney Charles Gallagher said it is likely that Florida Beach Coast is trading illegally under FDUTPA – especially because the company’s actions appear to be part of a pattern.
“This is not just a one-time occurrence of wrongdoing,” Gallagher said.
He characterized the property’s open code violations as “quite significant”.
“Having a property that has been postponed maintenance or that isn’t cosmetically the most beautiful is one thing,” Gallagher said. “But if you have a code enforcement that sets a basis for the requirements for … a habitable residence that doesn’t meet those issues, and that is ongoing … this is a very important problem in terms of the illegality of this Landlord. ”
For their part, Saint-Clermont did not really unpack. After what her family went through, she says she doesn’t want to stay here.
“It’s a scam,” said Saint-Clermont. “It’s a really sad situation to be a part of and I just feel bad for anyone you think is coming in here next.”
The open questions on the Lake Lawne Avenue property on the Florida Beach Coast will be brought to the next Code Enforcement Board hearing in Orlando on May 12, according to city records.
We tried again to contact Florida Beach Coast by phone and email without receiving a response.
Molly Duerig is a member of the Report for America Corps, a researcher on affordable housing for Spectrum News 13. Report for America is a not-for-profit national service program that places journalists on local newsrooms to cover undercover issues. (RFA-LINK TO EMBED: https://www.reportforamerica.org/about-us/)