Renter suspects lack of permits at poorly maintained Pinellas County apartment

Nomad

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Aug 26, 2023
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I came across a distressing Reddit post by a woman who identifies herself as disabled and who is facing terrible living conditions in a Pinellas County rental. She sounds like she's experiencing real emotional hardship due to the situation (e.g., there's damage that never gets fixed along with a roach infestation issue) and is wondering what her options are. She suspects the landlord never obtained proper occupancy and building permits and has turned to the online community for help.

Does anyone have advice? I think she should definitely reach out to the County to inquire about potential code violations. Does anyone have any other thoughts, or resources we can point her to, that could help her begin improving her situation?

@Eric has cross-posted this thread on Reddit.
 
Location
Pinellas County, Florida, United States
Gosh, that sounds like a horrible situation. I really hope she finds a resolution. Sadly, even if the landlord gets in trouble for failing to obtain the proper permits, it won't help her out. If anything, the landlord will get fined and shut down, which is what the landlord deserves, but the Reddit poster won't benefit from it and will probably have to move.
 
The first step I'd take in this situation, would be to reach-out to the local city or county code compliance office. Check to see if the property has the required permits. They should be able to provide you with the right details on if the home has the required permits to divide it into multiple rental units, along with any recent work that has been performed.

You can also file a code compliance report with your local authorities if the property does not have the proper permits on hand. This should result in an inspector coming over to check for compliance and local regulations, including said permits and health and safety standards.

Just know to keep up with local landlord-tenant laws, most you can find on municipal code websites usually. Understanding these laws helps you also understand your rights and what legal actions you are able to take with your landlord, whether they have obtained the appropriate permits or happens to not be addressing any maintenance issues.
 
Dang, that sucks! We had a situation like this in my jurisdiction. Turned out the building was originally permitted, and received the C/O, but after years of neglect and poor maintenance, which the landlord failed to pull the proper permits for the structure was in a horrible state of disrepair. Long story short the city red-tagged the building and a lot of people had to find alternative housing. Hopefully, this story has a happier ending.
 
I agree with checking with the code compliance office, but I also wonder if the county has adopted a property maintenance code? If so, that may help her a little. She should also look into tenant rights for that area. Sometimes, especially if the building dept. does not have an adopted PMC, there's not much they can do.
 
Ugh, I don't like situations like these. In my experience it doesn't go well for the renter. We also have people notify the health department as well as check for permits. If the structure itself is bad, we have sent our building inspector out in the past and he has deemed it unsafe for habitation. Again, this usually results in the renter having to move, but sometimes that's the only way to get these buildings fixed or into new ownership.
 
If the tenant believes no permits were obtained or violating some sort of building code, reaching out to the County Code Office would be my first step if they wish to take action against the landlord. However, I can see this may not really help her situation immediately as it may force her to relocate.
 
I came across a distressing Reddit post by a woman who identifies herself as disabled and who is facing terrible living conditions in a Pinellas County rental. She sounds like she's experiencing real emotional hardship due to the situation (e.g., there's damage that never gets fixed along with a roach infestation issue) and is wondering what her options are. She suspects the landlord never obtained proper occupancy and building permits and has turned to the online community for help.

Does anyone have advice? I think she should definitely reach out to the County to inquire about potential code violations. Does anyone have any other thoughts, or resources we can point her to, that could help her begin improving her situation?

@Eric has cross-posted this thread on Reddit.
In Los Angeles I deal with this all the time. The code enforcement aspect is how you would deal with the landlord getting in trouble, and being made to bring the building up to code. I can't speak on how they do things in Florida, but in LA renters have a lot of safety nets to not get put out on the street. I would suggest looking into the housing department to see if they have relocation services. In LA if renters are found to be in an illegal (unpermitted) structure the owner may be responsible to pay relocation fees. Also, contact the health department regarding issues like infestations or mold.
 
In Los Angeles I deal with this all the time. The code enforcement aspect is how you would deal with the landlord getting in trouble, and being made to bring the building up to code. I can't speak on how they do things in Florida, but in LA renters have a lot of safety nets to not get put out on the street. I would suggest looking into the housing department to see if they have relocation services. In LA if renters are found to be in an illegal (unpermitted) structure the owner may be responsible to pay relocation fees. Also, contact the health department regarding issues like infestations or mold.
Thanks for sharing your experience in LA, and I hope renters in Florida also have similar kind of safety nets. I believe checking out with Pinellas County Code Enforcement can helpful. I think the best way to tackle a situation like this would be to seek legal aid from local organizations like Bay Area Legal Services for tenant rights advice. What do you think?
 
Yes she should reach out to someone asap. No one should be stuck living in such harsh conditions, especially someone who happens to be disabled. These landlords really need to make fixes when needed, because that's what good people do.

In this situation, the landlord seems to be cutting corners, so they probably have a lot of work that needs to be done to make everything up to code again.

I hope this person reaches out to someone for help, because this sounds like a horrible situation.
 
Yes, I would definitely suggest seeking legal aid in this circumstance.
That seems like the best course of action. It may result in losing the housing, but I imagine the state would come in and help with some temporary housing for her as they look into this. I honestly think it'd be best for this person to just be out of this building, it doesn't sound like a healthy environment.
 
I hope that she is able to document everything that is happening so that she can present a legal case as well as contacting the code compliance office in her town.
 
I can't speak on how they do things in Florida, but in LA renters have a lot of safety nets to not get put out on the street. I would suggest looking into the housing department to see if they have relocation services. In LA if renters are found to be in an illegal (unpermitted) structure the owner may be responsible to pay relocation fees.

I really appreciate this perspective. I handle permitting in California too and know firsthand how social justice factors weigh heavily in government decision-making. For example, the County of Orange (who I work with closely) sometimes needs to clear out homeless encampments in our wetland mitigation sites. Before they can do so, I've been told their sheriff's department must first notify and offer relocation options to the unhoused population. Not sure if these are local- or state-level laws, but in California you can pretty much count on safety net provisions being triggered when someone's housing situation gets shaken up as a result of government action.

Agreed that this person should be sure to check with their local housing department regarding possible relocation services. @Elissa B, who's based out of Washington State, mentioned that situations like these usually don't end well for renters in her experience. Not sure what sorts of housing assistance might exist in Florida but hopefully there are better outcomes in store on that front, in the event that the apartment gets deemed unsafe and the renter is forced to relocate.
 
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