TAMPA, Fla. — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is demanding a federal inspection of a Tampa apartment complex where some residents have complained of substandard living conditions, including the presence of black mold and rats.
The Republican lawmaker's letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge comes as Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced earlier Friday that the city has received a commitment by the agency to inspect "every single unit" during the next several weeks.
The Silver Oaks Apartments complex, which has rent subsidized by the federal government as many residents have low income, has been the subject of several stories involving people who have criticized management for ignoring maintenance requests. After days of silence, Silver Oaks ownership sent 10 Tampa Bay the following statement on Friday:
"The safety and wellbeing of our residents is our #1 priority at Silver Oaks. As soon as ownership learned of the deferred maintenance and moisture related issues, management was immediately instructed to fix these units as well as any other deferred maintenance problems that may exist. Maintenance matters of this nature can be caused by internal or external leaks as well as air conditioners not being run.
"Very important, our management company’s routine housekeeping inspections were paused as a result of the CDC ‘s COVID-19 guidance, but they have been resumed. Regular housekeeping inspections can help to identify potential or lingering maintenance concerns in addition to ensuring management is promptly responding to resident maintenance requests. We hope to rectify the existing issues in a timely manner and expect these issues to be eliminated going forward. We encourage our residents to immediately report any problems with their units."
In his letter, Rubio called Cambridge's work a "disgraceful mismanagement" and said, "No Floridian should be subjected to these sorts of conditions, least of all in properties subsidized by taxpayer dollars."
He said his staff visited the complex on April 14 and noted every unit had an infestation of roaches and rats. Social workers from a local elementary school, he claimed, handed out bleach and cleaning supplies because students who lived there "are often sick have to receive wellness checks on a regular basis."
Rubio also touched on a notice of housekeeping inspection residents received last week. Residents who didn't have a sanitary ceiling, had no dirty dishes in the sink, or had laundry items on the floor were subject to eviction.
"Residents have voiced fear of retaliation by the property manager for reporting the true conditions of the facility to my staff and local media outlets," the letter said.
HUD must inspect the Silver Oaks Apartments and supply Rubio's office with steps that its residents would no longer be subjected to health and safety issues, the letter continued. He also wants to know how Cambridge Management could be penalized.
In addition to issues in Tampa, a company complex in Jacksonville was found to have 286 violations last year, Rubio said, mentioning issues of vermin infestations, mold, broken appliances and "general disrepair."