JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development inspection reports for Calloway Cove Apartments, as well as another property managed by Millennia Housing Management, showed multiple safety issues over the last several years.
An Action News Jax investigation uncovered that an apartment complex where a mother and three children were critically burned in a fire last week had a history of fire safety issues.
New documents show federal inspectors made note of these problems in 2018.
It took Action News Jax more than a week to get the documents from HUD.
Action News Jax reporter Courtney Cole looked through the HUD inspection report, which revealed how many health and safety shortfalls the complex had.
According to HUD, the complex had 20 health and safety deficiencies for things like insect and roach infestations, damaged walls and mold stains.
Neighbors Cole spoke to said unfortunately, these problems come with the territory.
"The last four or five management people that were there, everyone was taking money,” Michael Smith said.
Smith told Cole he hopes Millennia Housing Management is different.
"They just got here,” Smith said.
Millennia is the latest management company to take over Washington Heights, now known as Calloway Cove.
Smith is one of the 12 people left with nothing after a fire destroyed Building G at the complex last week.
"A lot of it comes from it being old. But it's something they have to get on top of. They can't keep just overlooking it,” Smith said.
After the fire, Action News Jax dug into health and safety conditions at the complex, requesting the last three HUD inspection reports.
A report from February 2018 includes a review of 24 units.
The complex scored an 82c, an improvement from 2015 and 2016, when the complex was under different management.
However, the C indicates the complex had pressing fire safety deficiencies that required immediate attention.
Cole contacted Millennia Housing Management twice and sent two emails to learn what steps are being taken to keep residents safe now.
She's still waiting for those specific answers, and Smith says neighbors are, too.
“Why treat us like that? We're already in poverty as much as possible,” Smith asked.
- Columbia County: Man arrested for strangling daughter after she made mac-n-cheese, police say
- SJSO: Man dies in apparent drowning during honeymoon trip to beach in St. Johns County
- Teen shot in fourth shooting reported in Jacksonville Tuesday night
- Mom's boyfriend accused of killing her toddler son; boy's dad later opens fire on cops, police say
- Woman killed at fire station while trying to get away from husband, sheriff says
After Cole's report aired at 5 p.m., Valerie Jerome, a spokeswoman for Millennia Housing Management, said in an email, “I would need to look into the HUD-related questions, and it will take more time to do so.”
Action News Jax learned Calloway Cove is not the only complex managed by Millennia Housing Management that had problems in the past.
According to a HUD inspection report from 2017, like Washington Heights, there were fire safety issues at Eureka Gardens, now known as Valencia Way, that needed immediate attention -- things like smoke detectors.
But one neighbor Cole spoke to says things are better at the complex since Millennia took ownership of the property last year.
"Things don't happen overnight. They're doing a good job, but we have to be patient,” Gail Thomas said.
Thomas is the president of the Tenants Association at Valencia Way.
She told Cole they’ve come a long way since Millennia Housing Management took over Eureka Gardens last year.
“The whole complex has central heating and air now,” Thomas said.
She also told Cole they haven’t had any issues with their water being cut off anymore, either.
"They got a new thing for the water. The water is good now. They're working on putting the pipes down,” Thomas said.
Action News Jax has been reporting about problems at Eureka Gardens for nearly a decade now.
Eureka Gardens was cited by HUD in 2017 for 52 health and safety deficiencies for things like insect infestation and problems with plumbing and damaged walls, earning it a score of 61c*. The asterisk in the score indicates there were issues related to the smoke detectors.
Thomas told Cole she believes what happened at Washington Heights could have happened there, too.
"We're praying for the ones that got burnt up over there in Washington Heights,” Thomas said.
While some tenants worry Millennia Housing is moving too fast with renovations, Thomas said she will do what she can to make sure things run smoothly.
“We're trying to make sure everything is right and every tenant is treated fairly,” Thomas said.
Millennia Housing started renovations at Eureka Gardens last year.
It's planning to be done by fall 2020.
In the meantime, Cole has reached out to Millennia to learn why some apartments don’t currently have internet or cable.
© 2020 Cox Media Group