MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Late Thursday night, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett released a copy of a letter he said was sent to the tenants who live in the four-story building he owns in Miami Beach.
Burkett is giving the tenants 45 days to vacate the units at The Lois Apartments, at 2001 Bay Dr., in the Isle of Normandy, so much-needed construction can begin.
The building suffered hurricane damage in 2017, there were delays on city permits, and Burkett wants to complete the 40-year inspection early, according to the letter.
Residents say they’ve been complaining about the damage for years and are now frustrated they’re being told to leave.
Among their complaints are exposed rebar, missing balconies, apparent concrete dipping, and an elevator they say has “just stopped working.”
“We have handicapped people living there, elderly people,” said resident Nicole Abenoza.
She lives on the third floor and said she feels like management is retaliating because residents went public with their concerns.
“They got the permit right away after three days we exposed them,” she said.
Burkett said that since the damage from Irma, it has been a back and forth with the city of Miami Beach over permitting.
“We said to the city, listen we’ve been waiting for the permit and they said well we don’t have any plans or drawings,” said. “They lost the plans and we’ve been working with the city now to get them copies of the plans.”
Burkett continued: “I share [the residents’] frustration. But, you know, it’s one thing to do a small amount of work and have tenants roaming around and living in the building. It’s another thing to do major construction on a building and risk the safety of those tenants. It’s just something I can’t do, and it’s not prudent.”
The repairs are estimated to take 2-3 months. When completed, Burkett said the tenants will be invited back.
But residents say that, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic where rents are high and availability low, finding a new rental in 45 days simply doesn’t give them enough time.
And there’s one other complication.
“If there is a case that I wanted to move right now how can I do it with the broken elevator?” resident Xaviel Lugo said.