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Code enforcement converges on abandoned apartments near USF in Tampa

TAMPA — Hillsborough County code enforcement officers Thursday swept through the old Camelot apartments, a complex they said had been abandoned to vagrants and thieves.

"The whole complex has been condemned," said Jim Blinck, manager of code enforcement operations for Hillsborough County. "It's a problem and a nuisance to the surrounding property owners, actually to the whole community."

As code enforcement officers posted notices saying each apartment was uninhabitable, about a dozen men doing community service raked up, bagged and disposed of a Dumpster full of garbage.

Blink said the county was considering demolishing the buildings or putting plywood over the doors and windows and a fence around the complex.

By the end of the day, a real estate broker working with the bank that holds the mortgage said a fence would probably go up next week, after Tampa Electric turned off the power and one remaining squatter was gone.

From August to December, law enforcement agencies received more than 40 complaints about the complex at 13135 N 19th St., just south of Fletcher Avenue. The calls ranged from reports of burglaries and stolen cars to child abuse and assault and battery.

Zahir Hussain, 58, of Seffner owns the complex, county and federal records show. He could not be reached Thursday.

Hussain listed the complex as an asset when he filed last year for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

In his bankruptcy filing, Hussain said the complex consisted of 21 apartments: four two-bedroom units and 17 one-bedroom units. He estimated their value at $525,000, slightly less than the property appraiser's assessment for real estate taxes.

Hussain also said in the filing that he owed $1.28 million on the property, the amount of the mortgage he took when he bought the complex two years ago.

Code enforcement officials said Hussain owes more than $50,000 in fines for violations at the Camelot apartments and another complex he operated on 15th Street.

The cleanup was done by code enforcement's new law enforcement liaison team, which was formed in the fall to work with the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office to target property crime and violent crime. The team was formed as a result of the county receiving a justice assistance grant through the federal stimulus package approved last year.

Hillsborough code enforcement director Dexter Barge said the complex was a sign of the foreclosure crisis and an economy in a tailspin.

"It's a horrible mess," Barge said. "It's not just people walking away from single-family homes."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Code enforcement converges on abandoned apartments near USF in Tampa 01/14/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 14, 2010 11:15pm]
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