Tampa City Council member ‘disturbed’ by tenants living with rats and mold sends letter to landlord

'I ask that your company do better in working with residents in our community and those who live on your properties,' Luis Viera wrote in the letter to Tzadik Management.
Mi'Lan Mack, 4, left, and her sister Myla Mack, 9, play outside of the Timberfalls apartment complex on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in Tampa.
Mi'Lan Mack, 4, left, and her sister Myla Mack, 9, play outside of the Timberfalls apartment complex on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in Tampa. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Aug. 24, 2020

Saying he was “disturbed” to hear about poor living conditions in Tampa apartments and the evictions that have been filed against the tenants living there, Tampa City Council member Luis Viera sent a letter to Tzadik Management on Monday, asking the landlord company for a meeting.

The letter was sent to the Miami-based company via mail and email, according to Viera’s aide.

Tzadik Management was the subject of a Sunday Tampa Bay Times story that described the issues in the Hillsborough County properties owned or managed by the company.

Related: A Florida landlord got a big PPP loan. Tenants get rats, mold and evictions.

The story also disclosed that Tzadik Properties, which lists the same address as Tzadik Management, received a forgivable government loan under the Paycheck Protection Program between $2 million and $5 million, as part of the federal program designed to help businesses avoid layoffs during the pandemic. (The Tampa Bay Times and related companies received an $8.5 million loan.)

On Monday, Tzadik Management said that its loan was in the amount of $3 million.

At the same time, Tzadik has filed more evictions during the pandemic than any other Florida landlord, according to one analysis by the Center for Public Integrity. Some of Tzadik’s residents live with rats, mold and plumbing leaks, which they say have been ignored for months despite the fact that the conditions threaten their health. Several of the properties associated with the company have also been repeatedly cited by code enforcement.

Tzadik Management has defended their eviction filings, saying they had dismissed the cases that fell under a federal eviction moratorium and that they were following “all applicable laws.”

“Given the fact that you have apparently, per the story, received this loan and eventual potential subsidy from taxpayers — including those taxpayers who reside at your properties — I am writing to ask that your company do better,” Viera’s letter reads. “Your company alleges that you are complying with the applicable law as it applies to PPP funds, and that may be true. However, there is a greater principle that concerns me, and that is the respect and dignity of those who reside in your apartments in the North Tampa and larger Hillsborough County area.”

Tampa City Council member Luis Viera
Tampa City Council member Luis Viera [ Times (2019) ]

In a statement issued Monday evening, Tzadik Management said the company received Viera’s letter and responded that “the company is happy to meet with him as soon as he is available to discuss Tzadik’s role in the community and working together for the betterment of its residents.”

Tzadik Management boasts a billion-dollar portfolio of residential complexes nationally, with at least 12 in Hillsborough County. At least one of Tzadik’s complexes, Timberfalls Apartments, is located in Viera’s district, District 7, which is the northernmost of the city council.

“I ask that your company do better in working with residents in our community and those who live on your properties. That means working with residents and tenants who are having a hard time paying rent because they lost their job or part of their income,” Viera wrote. “That means working with residents and tenants on addressing alleged concerns with having apartments that are able to be lived in.”

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Tzadik’s Monday statement also responded to the original Times report, saying that because it is the property management company and not the owner of some of the Hillsborough properties, it is constrained in its maintenance abilities by the owners’ capital expenditures budgets.

“Since acquiring Timberfalls, Tzadik Management has spent $1,511,492 in capital expenditures which go above normal repairs and maintenance, and of that, $65,094 has been spent during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said, in part. “The damages noted in the article are in the process of being repaired.”

The company also added that some of the tenants who are being evicted were delinquent before the pandemic took place, and said the company has granted $671,000 in “concessions and credits” for its properties in Tampa, Winter Haven and Jacksonville. It also added that its Paycheck Protection Program loan was “irrelevant to the evictions and property conditions” because the purpose of the program was to keep Tzadik’s employees employed, and the company added two positions at Timberfalls during the pandemic to take care of work orders.

Beyond the letter, Viera also said he plans to try to set up a socially distanced meeting with tenants and representatives from the city as well as charities to see what assistance they can offer.

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