ST. PETERSBURG— Roaches in the refrigerator. Mold on the carpet and in the closets. Peeling paint on balconies and storage areas.
Some residents at Bay Point Villas, a 136-unit complex in the Greater Pinellas Point neighborhood, say they've had enough of the dicey conditions in their aging 1970s-era apartments.
City Council member Steve Kornell wants the city to step in and force the Maryland-based owner to make improvements.
But city officials say state law prohibits them from routinely inspecting rental dwellings larger than five units. St. Petersburg code enforcement inspectors can't enter Bay Point Villas unless a resident calls to complain.
That isn't likely to happen, said Gloria Smith, who has lived in the complex since 2011 and battled roaches and mold.
"Most people are too afraid to call the city. They think they'll get kicked out," she said.
Smith and another tenant, Deborah Wade, said they've struggled to get management to respond to their complaints. After a Tampa Bay Times reporter visited their apartments last month, apartment manager Nina Walker said she replaced Smith's refrigerator and had an air quality technician try to find the source of the mold problems in Wade's apartment.
The state's Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Hotels and Restaurants has inspected the apartments at 2150 62nd Ter. S at least seven times since 2009, never finding any major problems.
The latest visit by the state on Oct. 24 — the same day the Times requested inspection records — found the owner, Frontier Management of Silver Springs, Md., couldn't produce a current state license.
DPR officials declined to comment for this article.
Walker, Bay Point Villa's property manager, said the complex is much improved over the sketchy atmosphere that dominated when she arrived a few years ago. Still, several ownership changes have meant that some maintenance issues have fallen through the cracks, she said.
Residents, who pay between $530 and $785 a month in rent, often don't have many options.
"We're the last resort for people," Walker said.
Todd Yost, the city's director of codes compliance assistance, said his 25 inspectors visit an average of 17 properties a day. Additional responsibilities would strain his department, but he encourages residents to call the city if their landlords aren't maintaining the property.
"We're a reactionary force," he said.
Kornell said he's frustrated that residents in his district like Wade and Smith aren't getting better treatment. And he'd like the city to take a more active role, even if inspectors just regularly inspect the exterior of problem apartment complexes, which they can do under the law.
"I feel like a hamster on a wheel," Kornell said. "I've been very vocal about this."
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