At Silver Oaks, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay found that serious structural issues, such as collapsing ceilings, black mold and constant flooding have residents living in a waking nightmare. At Jackson Heights Apartments in East Tampa and Columbus Court Apartments in West Tampa, the story is unfortunately similar.
Nngozi Evans brought her son home from the hospital to her apartment at Jackson Heights after giving birth to him earlier this year. He was born premature, and came home with some health issues to her black mold infested apartment, where the air conditioning had been broken for over a year, Evans told CL.
He's recovered now, but Evans, while pointing to black mold on her living room ceiling and sewage bubbling up out of the ground just outside of her living room window, said the problems persist.
"Our entire family, including my baby girl, who is two, have breathing problems," Evans said. "The people who tried to complain in the past, they got kicked out."
Her neighbor, Tiffany Randall, decided to speak up despite the risk. She has lived at Jackson Heights for five years, and sent an email in response to CL's call to hear from more residents who live under Cambridge Management.
Inside her apartment, black mold peeked through a new paint job, and the whole house smelled of mold. Randall said she and her three children—ages 17, 13 and 6—have to live there, and they all have developed breathing issues because of it. Her fridge has been leaking for two years, and no one has come to fix it, despite her requests. She keeps buckets inside and around it in an attempt to catch the water.
Her neighbor, Isis McCray, has a worse black mold problem.
Her closet is covered in it, so much so that the mold attacks the sinuses as soon as the closet door is opened. The black mold has been given plenty of opportunity to spread, because McCray said her downstairs air conditioning has been broken for a year and half.
She and the rest of her family, which include a toddler and a teenage girl, have to go to the upstairs portion of the apartment to escape the heat.
"Imagine living like this, with no air conditioning in this heat, and with air that's hurting us to breathe!" McCray shouted in frustration.
At the leasing office, staff told this reporter that I should not be on site unless someone greeted them. Once they confirmed that a tenant had invited CL in, the new manager, who did not want to be named, said that they're working on the problems.
"Right now they're doing inspections and we should have some letters coming out about next steps," the manager said. "I'm waiting on my contractor for the A/C, so we're on this stuff. They just didn't have a manager for a while here. So I'm here now and I've been getting this stuff taken care of."
Back outside, there was a crew doing inspections of the property. Cambridge Management's PR team also weighed in on the situation.
“Upon learning about the issues that arose at Silver Oaks, ownership directed Cambridge Property Management to immediately take the same measures at Columbus Court and Jackson Heights," Cambridge Management said in a new statement to CL. "That included surveying 100% of the units, resuming housekeeping inspections and engaging contractors to cure maintenance deficiencies. As you witnessed on site, crews have already actively begun making corrective measures, performing necessary repairs, and prioritizing the most urgent needs.”
At the complex, plumbing and maintenance crews were there working on problems, and tenant Calvin Johnson spoke briefly about the issues he's seen.
"It's real bad, all those things that are happening at those other apartments are happening here, including rodents," Johnson said. "But it looks like they're finally working on the problems now."