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Leaky roof forces out 85 at Holiday apartment complex

HOLIDAY — Gabriel Cochrane paced the parking lot Wednesday morning of the Park at Barrington Place apartments as engineers inspected stucco patches peeling from the walkways of the four-story complex.

"I had to miss work today," said the 31-year-old supervisor for an air conditioning repair company. "I slept in my van."

Cochrane, who lives on the top floor of the complex off U.S. 19, was one of about 85 people evacuated late Tuesday night after heavy rains caused a leak in the roof that led to what Pasco County building official Tim Moore called "a water intrusion."

Moore said the managers, Equity Management Partners, brought in a structural engineer to make sure the building was not a hazard. He said the county would issue a report after the company finishes its work.

No one was injured, but tenants in the affected units were sent to nearby hotels at the apartment complex's expense.

Cochrane had planned to stay at the nearby Fairfield Inn but left when he learned that pets were not welcome.

Residents say they have complained of leaks and mold. Moore said the county had received two complaints of mold over the past year, but the cases were closed because the tenants moved out.

Cochrane said rain leaks onto his porch. His lease is up soon, he said, and he plans to move.

Neighbor Robert Guiffre, 37, has lived there for about two months. He said his kitchen cabinets lean but he hasn't had "any major problems."

Managers declined to comment on what led to the evacuation.

Records show the owner is Benjamin Mallah, a Largo resident who owns a host of apartment complexes across the area. Pinellas records show he lives in 6,707-square-foot waterfront home that cost nearly $2 million. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In 2009, he flipped a 1981 senior apartment complex in Pinellas Park for a $1 million profit after owning it only a year, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal. In 2007, he bought a 130-unit complex in Tampa at "arms length" from convicted landlord Steven Green for $4.1 million.

The website for the property management company described the complex as "private and luxurious." Rents are listed at $585 a month for a one-bedroom to $700 for a two-bedroom.

Pam Saccone, 67, was preparing to spend her second night at the Fairfield Inn. She said residents have not been told when they can return. Meanwhile, the rumor mill is abuzz.

"You can't get a straight answer out of anybody," she said. "People are imagining the worst when that may not be the case."

Researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

Leaky roof forces out 85 at Holiday apartment complex 08/21/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 8:18pm]
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