Letter written to Florida Attorney General.
"Dear Attorney General Pam Bondi;
I'm convinced that I speak for many in my attempt to vocalize what has been an existing open sore in our state for as long as I've lived here, some 44 years and counting. So far, none of our government bodies in place,
from the City of North Port, to Sarasota County, to Bay Area Legal Service, and to the health dept, have stepped up to the plate. The 64 thousand dollar question being the present landlord/tenant law. Is it fully comprehensive,
and how much of it is even enforced? It has become painfully obvious to me, that landlords have the upper hand, and meet little or no resistance when it comes to the bully tactics that many of them incorporate in their methods.
I've even contacted "On Your Side", WFLA channel 8 in Tampa, and was informed by them that this is the biggest complaint they receive referring to suspect landlords. Realizing this complaint may not resolve any of my issues resulting
from my situation, and may not be sufficient enough to justify law enforcement or legal action, but I still feel compelled to at least have my voice heard. Please, if you will, think of my situation being akin to that of
"The Incredible Shrinking Man". That no matter how insignificant my life may be, I will still matter in the universe because, "to God, there is no zero". I'm on a limited income, nearly 64 years of age, and have rented from a
"slumlord", as dubbed by Legal Aid. He's 80+ years of age, hereinafter referred to as the landlord, residing in Englewood, Fl. The subject property I've rented from him is paid in full until Oct 1st.
If I may begin by briefly going back approx a month ago when I came to Florida to find a home rental for my wife and myself. We moved to N.C. from Englewood in 2014, and after nearly 4-years there,
it wasn't for me, and I thought not for she as well. After searching for a week to find something in our price range, one came up in the local paper. I made an appointment with the landlord to view the interior, and was among several
parties to view it Saturday June 16th, permitted about 15-minutes to do so due to the showing backlog. He even allowed someone else to enter before I was finished. This was not nearly enough time for me to conduct a thorough inspection.
Once I glanced through the rooms and layout, seeing none of the the red flags I would've seen had I more time, and "assuming" based on his integrity that he would finish up whatever work he was still doing to the home in advance of whomever
moved in, I had no reason to suspect that I was walking into a mine field. Once the landlord informed me later that same Saturday that "you can have it if you want it", feeling relieved that my search was over, I paid him for first,
last, and security, plus an additional month rent, secured "hand written receipts" and a one page lease, which he felt was unnecessary based on his "old school" manner of doing things, then immediately drove back to N.C. to get things in
order for moving out of our rental there by July 1st, so we wouldn't be paying rent for two homes. When I returned, my manic-depressive, clinically depressed wife of ten years with a history of irrational behavior, "drops the bomb" on me
that she wants a separation, basically condemning me to the situation I now find myself in. Had she been on the level with me before I first drove down, to look for something I could afford on my own as tough as it would've been price wise,
I would've avoided my current situation all together with this landlord who is nothing but a scoundrel. Once I informed him of this major setback, he refused to return my money, even though my income has been reduced by more than half.
He could've easily rented the home again, by fixing it like he should have to begin with. Since moving in, I've now inherited all of the repair problems and health hazards associated with the poor condition of this home from the previous
tenant. Regrettably, what I should have done was insist on another viewing to take a closer look before giving the landlord any money, and had him include something on the lease about making repairs, but needing to return to NC asap
and requesting a closer inspection on short notice would not have been agreeable with him, and he would've given it to someone else if I didn't take it right then and there. In the same disrepair, he raised the rent for the former tenant
just before I rented it, and as is, it's not even worth the previous rent amount. So far, prior to moving in, he replaced two bedroom carpets at my request because they stunk to high heaven, but failed to replace damaged sliding glass door
latches, the only two issues I managed to catch during my brief initial viewing. Since struggling with the sliding doors, I smashed some fingers. He subsequently stated that "this is why I offer cheap rents", as a token excuse for not
replacing the door latches, and for not finishing all else that still requires repairing, replacement, or cleaning up. Based on what I've since learned from the previous tenant after moving in June 28th, the home has been in the same
disrepair since hurricane Irma, and the aforementioned landlord has done little to restore and make it safe for occupation again. It has signs of mold everywhere, air vents are filthy, and doesn't have one working smoke alarm. These are
just for starters. To add insult to injury, in spite of his willingness to assist with repairs, the former tenant was still accused of owing back rent after 12 years of residing here. The tenant informed me that he paid rent in cash,
but didn't obtain receipts, performed work for rent reductions, but never received them. This is a recipe for disaster to me, but the tenant claims he wasn't expecting the treatment he got from the landlord after all this time.
As a result, the tenant finally abandoned his exercise in futility, let things go as is, and the landlord began applying the pressure. He used bully tactics and served the previous tenant several 5-day eviction notices (???),
and there's still a matter of $14,000 so-called unpaid rent owed when the tenant apparently lost in court to this landlord. The landlord even accused the former tenant of illicit behavior involving the ethnic neighbors next door.
Legal Aid referred to all of this as "gossip", pertaining to the previous tenant. Gossip? All one needs do is to step in here and take the time to look around, and see how much if this is "gossip". Same tenant would be more than
willing to provide any and all documentation pertaining to his awful experience. Rumors have circulated that the landlord has connections in the local courts because of his wealth, and is not held in very high regard by any of the
neighbors I've spoken to since I've been here. The consensus among them is that he is ruthless and shrewd, even the local church concurs. In a nutshell, upon further scrutiny, the home is obviously a money pit, with health hazards
and code violations. The signs of mold, filthy air vents, no working smoke alarms, serious wiring problems according to the previous tenant, obvious damage to the pole where power connects to the house, rotting wood doors, water damage
discoloration on the lower walls from flooding, the still difficult to open and close sliding glass doors that are near impossible to lock, unlockable dented garage door, laundry hookups with code violations, outside light fixtures
hanging from their wires, screen enclosure with screen frames coming apart, tree branches that need to be trimmed back from the roof, carpenter ants crawling everywhere, occasional interior reeking from a possible backed up septic tank,
baseboards coming loose, loose and missing drawer and cabinet/cupboard handles, debris and evidence of shoddy workmanship everywhere you look. It's an absolute piece of junk, and it concerns me that this house may even be condemnable.
The air filter looks as if it was never changed, and the landlord propped it up with a stick to prevent it from being sucked in. The electrician the former tenant brought in, said the air conditioning unit is undersized as well.
I have supportive, time-stamped photographic evidence of everything I've listed, to serve not only as visual proof to anyone the least bit curious, but to also serve as protection against any damage claims this landlord may make on
my security deposit should he try to blame me. This slumlord is obviously only in it for profit, exploiting the system with little or no regard for the inconvenience he's causing people like myself. Frankly, I am appalled that he has
gotten away with it for as long as he has undetected, but then again I'm certain he's aware of the lack of governmental intervention due in large part to under funding. Bottom line, he will get this house back in the same undesirable
condition as he rented it to me, and I have no plans to spend any of my time or money to remedy what is ethically his responsibility if not legally. Even if he were to voluntarily agree to follow up on the still needed repairs,
he would now have to impose on my quality time to make them, infringing on my right to live a normal life. Before moving in, he even let the grass grow a foot in height, so I had to cut it first thing before a FINE would be levied
against me. There are also cigarette butts all over the front yard. The former tenant advised me to RUN from this situation, but I'm stuck here for at least another two months, and then right back to needing somewhere to live.
Unless dramatic changes take place, including a rent reduction besides making the necessary repairs, I'll probably give him my 30-day vacate notice Sept 1st since he refuses to return my additional month paid, which would've enabled
me to give my notice Aug 1st instead. I'm not even unpacking my belongings, and I don't have a car besides due my deteriorating vision. This individual may think he can do with me whatever he wants to, or to me, and once he learns of
my earnest attempts to expose him for what he is, who knows what additional woes await, including the likelihood he will make a claim on my security deposit. Opportunistic landlords like I've just described should be held accountable
and not be above reproach. My signature authorizes the Attorney General's Office to take any action deemed necessary for purposes of investigation or enforcement. I understand that the Attorney General does not represent private citizens
seeking the return of their money or other personal remedies. I am filing this complaint to notify your office of the activities of this company so that it may be determined if law enforcement or legal action is warranted."
Complaint was forwarded to consumer affairs for follow up. Meanwhile, I'm going blind from multiple sclerosis triggered by all of the stress this situation has caused me.
OUTCOME: landlord does not have to respond to complaint. A complete waste of time, and I can't afford to pay a private attorney $325 an hour.
RESOURCE: the Florida Landlord Tenant Law, Landlord and Tenant/Civil Practice and Procedure/Florida Statute 83.51 AND Landlord and Tenant/Civil Practice and Procedure/Florida Statute 83.201.
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