TAMPA — The trouble began in June when Jacquelyn Pinkney noticed a wet patch on the ceiling of her apartment's screened-in porch. She called her landlord, Franklin Street Management, and a crew came out to fix the problem. When they cut out the wet patch they discovered the wooden beams underneath had rotted. So had the large timber that frames her porch windows and supports the porch above her. Over the following weeks, Pinkney reported more water damage in her one-bedroom, ground-floor apartment: water seeped through the wall into her closet; water from the air-conditioning drain rotted the bathroom ceiling; rain penetrated her bedroom window framing.
“I can't use my patio,” said Pinkney, a widow and retired school nurse. She has lived at the Carlyle at Waters apartment complex since February. “That was one of the things that I wanted — to sit out there for some privacy.” Pinkney's are among thousands of code problems that have come to light over the last month as Mayor Bob Buckhorn has mounted a campaign to get the city's landlords to clean up their properties. This week, Buckhorn announced that the Hillsborough County Circuit Court will create once-a-month dockets to hear code cases exclusively. One will address chronic violators and cases that could include jail time. The other will handle less serious infractions. It's not clear how often the city has ticketed Franklin Street for problems at its complex near the intersection of Armenia and Water avenues. City officials couldn't provide a summary of cases against the company this week. But other tenants of the Carlyle at Waters were eager to show other problems in their building. Outside Pinkney's door, the metal railing on the first stairway landing was unattached to the wall at one end. A piece of plywood covered an large section of the siding that had rotten away, letting the railing come loose. On the building's exterior wall, cable lines hang in a jumble from the metal boxes that ought to enclose them. When it rains, the building loses cable service, Pinkney said. Franklin Street spokeswoman Kelsey Pazur declined to address Pinkney's case specifically. “We do try to address any and all of our residents' issues to make them comfortable,” Pazur said. She referred calls to Bruce Keene, Franklin Street's president for management services. He did not return calls for comment. On Aug. 5, Tampa code enforcement inspector visited Pinkney's apartment and gave the landlord until Monday to repair the damage. As of Thursday, the rotted timbers remained in place. The wooden siding between Pinkney's porch and her upstairs neighbor had bowed downward. A set of pressure-treated posts stands in Pinkney's porch now, supporting the porch of her upstairs neighbor. Two sheets of plywood block the sliding doors leading to the porch. The porch's screen windows buckle outward, and daylight is visible where the exterior siding has been removed. When an afternoon downpour rolled over the Carlyle at Waters apartment complex Thursday afternoon, a waterfall gushed through the gap in the outside wall and flooded the concrete porch. “I don't like to complain, but sometimes you have to,” Pinkney said, sitting in the stairwell outside her apartment. She has refused to return to her apartment since calling about the damaged porch ceiling. She worries the apartment is infested with mold and could threaten her health. “It has to be inside the walls,” she said. “You can smell mold. I can't stay here.” Her furniture and belonging sit in piles where they have been moved away from the walls. The same day as the city code inspector visited, Franklin Street officials offered Pinkney a deal: they would break the lease and pay her $279.50. In exchange, she had to agree to keep quiet. “Neither Party will reveal in any manner the contents of this Settlement Agreement or the fact of this settlement or any matters pertaining to this settlement which are not in the public domain,” Section 3 of the deal said. She refused to sign. Franklin Street put Pinkney up for a week at a nearby La Quinta motel for $100 a day. They've offered her two other apartments in the complex, but she has refused those, too. Pinkney said the company has told her she'll have to move back into her damaged apartment next week. At this point, she doesn't where she'll be living Monday. “I don't want to stay in anything they've got,” Pinkney said. firstname.lastname@example.org (813) 259-7871 Twitter: @kwiatrowskiTBO