Investigates: Rat infestation at Hilltop Apartments

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Tenants at the Hilltop Village Apartments say the rat infestation is still a problem. Now, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is urging the Department of Housing and Urban Development to take immediate action on the property managers.

Rubio sent a letter to the HUD Secretary looking ensure safe and sanitary living conditions at not just at the Hilltop apartments, but several other Florida properties managed by the same company.

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Action News Jax spoke with tenants off camera who said the problem has gotten slightly better, but others say if anything, it’s gotten worse.

“They in my closet, my shoes, his (son’s) room, basically everywhere,” Jessica McFadden said.

Pictures were given to Action News Jax from McFadden and in them, you can see rats caught in traps she laid down across her apartment. McFadden says she’s dealt with the issue for over a year now.

“Hopefully, I move out before anything gets worse,” McFadden said.

Like he did in May, Rubio sent yet another letter to HUD and is asking for better living conditions at more properties managed by Cambridge Management, Inc.

He lists seven other Florida properties in the letter with failed Real Estate Assessment Center inspection scores:

  1. Silver Oaks Apartments in Tampa, Florida, with a failing score of 40/100 on March 6, 2020.
  2. Lincoln Fields Apartments in Miami, Florida, with a failing score of 44/100 on March 6, 2020.
  3. BCC Apartments in Miami, Florida, with a failing score of 45/100 on March 10, 2020.
  4. Gadsden Arms Apartments in Quincy, Florida, with a failing score of 47/100 on December 11, 2019.
  5. Pembroke Tower Apartments in Pembroke Pines, Florida, with a failing score of 53/100 on October 17, 2018.
  6. Jackson Heights in Tampa, Florida, with a failing score of 55/100 on August 10, 2019.
  7. Emerald Place Apartments in Titusville, Florida, with a failing score of 57/100 on December 20, 2019.

Rubio is quoted in the letter urging for livable conditions, saying in part:

“Over the last two years, HUD has provided more than $17.5 million in federal financial assistance to the seven aforementioned properties.”

A public records request through city public affairs shows both citizen complaints and compliance issues dropped from May to June.

Citizen Complaints by Month:

  • April: 3
  • May: 154
  • June: 138

Municipal Code Compliance Cases at Hilltop Village Apartments by Month:

  • April: 0
  • May: 157
  • June: 119
  • Total: 276

The city says as of last week, the property owner has been fined $35,250 in various citations.

McFadden says she’s sent the office multiple complaints but has since stopped.

“What’s the point of wasting my time when they know what’s going on?” McFadden said. “I just pay my rent and keep it moving.”

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Action News Jax emailed the property managers for comment and in response, they said securing housing for residents is a top priority.

Here’s the statement in full:

“Providing safe and secure housing for residents is the top priority for both management and ownership of these communities. Immediately following each inspection our management team worked with HUD to ensure any significant deficiencies were resolved. In the time since the last inspections, the owners continued to invest in ongoing maintenance and improvements to the communities. Upon completion of a final inspection today, HUD has re-inspected all of these communities. Based on our internal projections, we anticipate passing scores at each of them.”

This is a developing story, and we will continue to update with the latest information.