On Tuesday, just after this Creative Loafing Tampa Bay reporter left the property, a security guard kicked out a local TV news team that was talking with tenants, even though the team told security that had been invited to the property.
And on Thursday, two days after CL broke the story about the problems at the complex—which include black mold, rodents and failing infrastructure—volunteers went to the complex to provide families with cleaning supplies and were kept off of the property.
"We had to go across the street to get the cleaning supplies from them, even though we invited them in. We've had security guards here before, but never like this," resident Shantia Little told me as she met me at the footpath gate onto the property. A security guard was standing with his back turned to us as we went in, monitoring the vehicles coming in and out of the property's main gate.
After speaking with Little and her neighbor Nene King—who pointed out that a staff assistant for Senator Marco Rubio had visited the property on Thursday to see the conditions—I went to the front office to ask some questions.
When I had previously visited the property, the management let me into the leasing office. Not this time. I spoke to them through an intercom and they told me I needed to contact corporate, which I told them I've already done via phone and email. I asked if their security team had told volunteers bringing cleaning supplies that they couldn't enter the property. They hung up.
I approached the security guard, who was wearing a patch that said "high risk management." I asked if he or any of his co-workers had told the media or people delivering supplies that they couldn't enter. He said, "I'm new here, I don't know." He then advised that because I no longer had a resident with me, that I should exit the property.
The problem with this behavior at Silver Oaks is that, according to just about every legal resource on the subject, arbitrarily deciding which guests to not allow on the property is potentially a violation of the law. Tenants are afforded the right of privacy and freedom of association under federal and state laws.
Cambridge Property Management runs Silver Oaks Apartments, which was constructed by Southport Development Services. Both companies have been exposed by politicians and the media for ill-maintained properties across Florida, several of which had similar ailments as Silver Oaks.
Rubio's assistant wasn't at the property on Thursday by chance, his office has kept an eye on the company ever since it found that the company participated in "mismanagement" of its properties.
Since 2019, he's twice filed a bill to reform the federal inspection process for privately-owned affordable housing complexes such as Silver Oaks, but the legislation has failed to become law.
In response to these discoveries, in September of 2021, DeSantis cut off state funding to the company, saying, “Our patience has run out for this developer and their management company’s failed stewardship of safe, decent and affordable housing for Floridians.”
The last time CL encountered property managers who were attempting to block entrance to the community was at Holly Court Apartments in North Tampa. On my first visit, I had to stand across the street with residents to talk about the issues there after a property manager waiting by the gates told me I couldn't enter.