Fla. Rep. Daphne Campbell drafts bill to hold 'slumlords' accountable

Bill comes after extensive Call Christina investigation


MIAMI – Following an extensive Call Christina investigation into a series of Miami apartments that were in deplorable conditions, Florida Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, has drafted a bill that will hold so-called slumlords accountable for their actions.

In a news release Tueday, Campbell said the bill would amend current state statue, "which identifies the rules and regulations that landlords must follow, State Statue 83.64 F.S. which outlaws retaliatory behavior, and 83.67 F.S. outlining prohibitions for landlords. It will now include criminal penalties for specified prohibited practices by a landlord relating to maintenance of the premises, retaliatory conduct, and other protections for tenants."

"This was a well thought out and intelligent way to amend existing legislation," former state and federal prosecutor David Weinstein said. "This amendment puts some teeth into the current law and puts landlords on notice that their inhumane treatment of their tenants will not be tolerated. By making a first violation a misdemeanor, it will only allow law enforcement to make an arrest if they personally observe the violation. This will also allow for coordinating with the State Attorney's Office when tenants have complaints."

The nine apartments, totaling 147 units, that were a part of the Local 10 News investigation were located in Liberty City and Overtown. They are all owned by companies state records show are run by Denise Vaknin of New Jersey.

"Christina Vazquez did an interview with me and allowed me to identify the many issues that the tenants were having with their 'Slumlords,'" Campbell said. "The article that Ms. Vasquez wrote 'Miami owed more than $2.4 million in fines for compliance violations,' highlighted the obvious disregard for the law that the "Slumlords" had. Ms. Vasquez even went as far as traveling to New Jersey to wrangle in a "Slumlord" that refused to answer questions. This dedication has shown Ms. Vasquez's commitment to finding justice for low-income residents."

The apartments have since received an Order of Closure by the state and a judge has  ordered that attorney Linda Leali be appointed as a receiver, allowing Leali to handle the management of the buildings while placing restrictions on the property owner's control.

READ: "Left to Rot" Call Christina investigation:

PART 1: Miami residents living 'like we are dogs' say landlord doing nothing to help

PART 2: Landlords of Miami residents living in 'slums' deny owning properties

PART 3: Law seems to protect landlords of Miami residents living in 'slum conditions'

PART 4: Tenants of dilapidated apartment file lawsuit against 'slumlord millionaire'

PART 5: Officials: Apartments in deplorable conditions a "city-wide" problem

PART 6: City officials move closer to improving Liberty City tenants quality of life

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