Renters, businesses forced out of unsafe building

Landlord missing as renters forced out

By Jacey Birch - Anchor/Animal Advocate

MIAMI - People living and working in a building in Little Havana were forced out after the structure was deemed unsafe.

Renters at 973 West Flagler Street were only given 72 hours to move out after, according to Miami Fire Rescue, inspectors found several violations at the building on Friday.

"The fire department threw everybody out," said Jose Figueroa.

"My mom, my niece, my brother, everybody's going to be out on the street," said Jessica Hernandez. "I'm going to be out on the street. My husband's going to be out on the street."

About 80 people living in 30 units left their apartments on Monday.

"They told me I got from ten to fifteen minutes to pick up my stuff. That's not enough to move," said Felipe Godoy. "Right now, I don't have nowhere to go. I got my dog, my daughter."

The problems began in July at the dilapidated building, which racked up violations from the City of Miami Fire, Police and Building Departments. The landlord was repeatedly notified after failing to follow code. A sign was posted on Friday stating the building was no longer suitable for living conditions. Just a few of the codes in question: a possible gas leak, improper fire alarm equipment, exposed wires and blocked exit doors.

"You have certain rights. Apparently not, by what's happening here. There is no rights, get out of here," said David Basterrechea.

Despite the problems, city officials have been unable to find the landlord.

"The owner left. He don't care. He don't show up and then all these people with families and kids and stuff like that. It's not right," said Jose Paz.

The renters who have already paid for the entire month of September are out the money and without a home. Forced to fend for themselves, many called friends and family members for help while nearly a dozen have been taken to hotels and local shelters.

"We offered everybody assistance, a shelter placement," said Lazaro Trueba with the City of Miami Homeless Assistance.

The gas was shut off to the building and locks were on the doors on Monday evening. But renters will be allowed back in at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to gather more of their personal belongings.

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