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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Dilapidated house in Seminole Heights frustrates neighbors

SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — Residents blame an absentee landlord for the poor condition of a rooming house on East Broad Street, a thoroughfare known for its restored bungalows and canopy of oak trees.

Code enforcement officials have told the owner, Fort Lauderdale-based Beluga Investment, to clean up trash, cut back vegetation and repair broken windows at 1023 E. Broad St. After two visits from a code enforcement inspector, they say, the infractions have not been corrected.

If the structure fails a third and final inspection, code enforcement inspectors will schedule a hearing before the code enforcement board.

A representative of Beluga could not be reached for comment for this story.

“It’s been on our radar since the 1990s,” said Jake Slater, the city’s director of neighborhood enhancement. “It needs to be fixed up.”

Area residents expressed frustration at a recent Tampa City Council meeting.

“We have been trying to get something done for years on this property,” said Susan Elbare, a neighborhood crime watch coordinator.

There are times, residents say, when people avoid walking past the house because of large gatherings on the porch, sidewalks and street. Trash, furniture and a refrigerator have littered the yard. Tampa police have received reports of loud music and fights in the front yard.

Illegal drug sales also have been reported, but police say they have found no evidence of such activity.

“We have a nice neighborhood,” said resident Susan Long. “This place is an absolute disaster. It’s quietly deteriorating because nobody takes care of it.”

Records show police officers responded at least two dozen times to calls to the address between January 2012 and the end of July. Complaints include, among others, reports of shots fired, assault and battery, a stolen vehicle, automobile burglary, disturbances and a domestic dispute.

For more than a decade, owners of the two-story house repeatedly have been cited for inoperable vehicles, trash and structural deficiencies, including crumbling brickwork on the porch.

In 1997 a complaint was lodged that the building was operating illegally as a rooming house. Zoning officials determined the rooming house was legal. A similar challenge was made in April but Slater said zoning authorities again determined the house, with two units fronting Broad and another on 12th Street, was legal.

From a zoning standpoint, city officials can shut down the rooming house only if it remains vacant for at least 180 days.

Ownership of the house has changed frequently. County records show it once was owner-occupied, but it last was listed as a homestead for tax exemption purposes in 2001.

Since then owners have used the property as a rental. The owners have included Jocelyne Millet Bully, who on a 2009 warranty deed listed her address as France. County records show she bought the house from Bero Properties for $210,000. Four years later the property was transferred by quit-claim deed to First MB Properties in Fort Lauderdale. Bully is identified on a warranty deed as manager of First MB Properties.

That company sold the property to Beluga in February for $9,000. Beluga and Bero share the same Fort Lauderdale address. Court records in 2008 show Jacques Allinquant, a principal of Beluga, had a Paraguay address.

During the real estate boom of the early 2000s, the county appraised the property for as much as about $190,000. Current records place its value at about $6,800.

“It used to be gorgeous,” Long said, “one of the prettiest houses on the street.”

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