Tenants Sue Gold King Apartments After Roof Collapse

MIAMI — February 6, 2014– Yesterday, Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc., Florida Legal Services, Inc., and the private law firm, Hernandez Lee, LLC, filed suit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court against Gold King Apartments on behalf of 11 tenants displaced when the roof of their apartment building collapsed. On December 26, 2013, in the middle of the night, these families and others were forced from their homes when the building’s roof collapsed during a rain storm. The complaint alleges that Gold King Apartments failed to adequately maintain the roof, despite knowledge of problems with the roof and after receiving residents’ complaints about the leaking roof and many other unsafe conditions. Gold King Apartments is an 80-unit residential apartment complex in North Miami. Plaintiffs are low-income families with children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Some plaintiffs continue to reside in the property, while others have moved as a direct result of the unsafe conditions.

Displaced for nearly three weeks, the complaint alleges the tenants were forced to find alternative housing without assistance from the landlord, and during the ordeal the families lost personal property, clothing, furniture, food, and wages. When the landlord authorized tenants to move back to the building in mid-January, the tenants returned to apartments filled with mold, mildew, roaches, and other unsafe conditions.

The tenants also allege that the landlord, through intimidation, fraud, and misrepresentation, convinced some residents to sign an agreement waiving their right to recover compensation from Gold King Apartments. The landlord allegedly told one plaintiff, who only speaks Haitian Creole, to sign an agreement for the return of her security deposit. But, the agreement, written only in English, states that the tenant releases Gold King from all claims.

One plaintiff, Paul Dumornay, explains the intimidation: “At first, when I asked for help, the landlord said there was nothing he could do. Now, the landlord says if I don’t settle he is going to put a notice on my door and evict me.” Mr. Dumornay has lived in Gold King Apartment for nearly 14 years with his wife and five children.

“Landlords have a legal responsibility to provide safe and secure housing,” said Jeffrey M. Hearne, Advocacy Director of the Tenants’ Rights Project at Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. “When a landlord shirks its responsibilities and causes harm to its tenants, it must compensate the tenants for their losses.”

Source: LSGMI. Is the largest provider of broad based civil legal services for the poor in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. Through the Tenants’ Rights Project, LSGMI represents low-income tenants with housing problems, such as evictions and uninhabitable conditions. Hernandez Lee is a firm of trial and appellate attorneys who provide aggressive representation to individuals, businesses, and governmental entities. The firm focuses on business and tort matters, labor & employment matters, local government matters, and federal government investigations and matters. The Community Justice Project, a project of Florida Legal Services, Inc., was founded in 2008 to provide legal support to grassroots community organizations in Miami’s low-income communities and works on a broad range of issues from housing rights to workers’ rights.

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