TAMPA, Fla. — A little over a week after the woes of tenants with Silver Oaks Apartments found their way into the spotlight, the people's voices are reaching Tampa city leaders.
And, the federal government is stepping in with a promise to do an emergency inspection of every single unit.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor released a statement Friday on the "unacceptable conditions" of the apartment complex:
“The living conditions at Silver Oaks Apartments are unacceptable. Since 2020, my administration has responded to multiple complaints about Silver Oaks and have issued citations where applicable under our authority. We requested the State of Florida DBPR do an emergency inspection of the properties, requested that HUD inspect the units last year (several units were inspected, but not all) and have received a commitment from HUD to inspect every single unit again in the coming weeks.
The City's goal is not to end state and federal funding for Silver Oaks, it is to ensure that these units are repaired and brought to acceptable living conditions so that residents will continue to have an affordable place to call home. I am very concerned that an end to Section 8 payments at Silver Oaks would displace the complex's many vulnerable residents. Unfortunately, this has happened in the past, and we must do everything that we can to make sure all residents living in the City of Tampa are in a safe, clean environment.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried visited the apartment complex on Tuesday to share her "Lower Costs, Higher Standards" plan to better protect renters.
"On day one, I will immediately direct the attorney general to target predatory landlords who put increased rent well beyond the rate of inflation," Fried said.
Some people who live at the complex have complained about a range of issues from black mold and rats to broken appliances and sewage leaks — problems that go beyond Fried's message on affordability. At Silver Oaks Apartments, many residents pay little to no rent because of the low-income status of the apartment complex.
The issues Silver Oaks tenants face are not rent costs related but maintenance requests that go ignored.
The issue already had the attention of Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. He recently introduced two bills into Congress to make sure apartment complexes like Silver Oaks are regularly inspected and held to health and safety standards.
His office sent 10 Tampa Bay the following statement:
“In May 2021, Senator Rubio urged HUD to re-inspect properties with failing REAC scores, including Silver Oaks Apartments. Senator Rubio’s staff visited the complex last week to talk to residents in person and see the conditions firsthand.
"Even though Silver Oaks received a passing score last summer, the conditions were horrific. Senator Rubio will continue working with local government officials and pushing HUD to take stronger action against the management company to ensure Silver Oaks residents have safe living conditions.”
10 Tampa Bay has reached out to Silver Oaks at the local office level and the corporate management level multiple times.
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."
To make a complaint to the Agriculture Department's division of consumer affairs, call 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-435-7352) or 1-800-352-9832 for Spanish. Residents can also visit this website.