Displaced Miami Beach tenants say landlord neglected historic building


Following a partial ceiling collapse and water leak near the main electrical system of an apartment building in Miami Beach, the city issued a notice on June 14 deeming the structure unsafe. All tenants in the building have been ordered to evacuate.

Many former residents of the four-story, 54-unit Annell Building at 700 Euclid Ave. still live in hotels. The landlord, Sentinel Real Estate Corporation, terminated their leases days after the cap collapsed, and they say they have yet to be compensated for their losses.

“We are fighting daily, weekly for restitution or coverage from Sentinel Group,” said former tenant Mark Williamson. new times. “Some of us have to find new apartments. Some people can’t afford new apartments, so they’re going to end up homeless. It’s just a constant battle.”

Residents have formed a tenant association to defend the interests of the more than 50 displaced families. The association, which partners with the Miami Workers Center, organized a rally in front of the dilapidated building on August 12 to hold its former owner to account.

“We encountered too many roadblocks,” Williamson says. “We want to try to push the city to make sure that all of these buildings that have been purchased by these companies are up to code and have no violations so that other hard-working families and residents are no longer left in this situation.”

Under a county order set after the 2021 Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside, owners are required to provide three months of relocation housing and associated costs in the event their building is classified as unsafe due to careless maintenance. Following the evacuation of the Annell building, Sentinel provided hotel rooms and offered tenants units in its other buildings at current market rates through a lottery system.

But former Annell resident José Maldonado says new times he’s still having a hard time getting out of it.

“Living in a hotel is not a home,” Maldonado says. “You get out of your routine and spend money out of pocket no matter how much you try to save.”

Tenants say they had to move all of their belongings from their respective apartments by July 8 or risk throwing them away and losing their security deposits. Because the city cut the building’s electricity, tenants had to move out in 95-degree heat with no elevator or air conditioning.

“It was a frenzied panic for people to move their furniture into a warehouse,” says Maldonado. “People lost days of work.”

Williamson, who had spine surgery in February, had to use the money he had saved to cover medical bills to move into a new downtown apartment. He says he now pays $900 more in monthly rent. Sentinel offered the former residents $1,000 each for moving expenses, but Williamson and others declined because the offer was conditional on them waiving any legal action against the company, he says.

Sentinel, a New York-based real estate company, acquired the building for $11.9 million in April 2021 as part of a $96 million Miami expansion. The building is one of 30 properties owned by Sentinel’s Helios Apartments Miami Beach.

Former tenants say they faced many problems in the building before the ceiling collapsed, including persistent flooding, no working elevator for almost a year and unlocked front and back doors that have trained squatters. Management, they claim, has largely ignored their complaints about safety and security.

“Our units would be flooded,” said Troy Kurtz, a former resident on the ground floor. new times. “We would be standing in the water. Management wouldn’t answer our phone calls. If they did they wouldn’t send anyone. mildew.”

Williamson says he fears there is a profit incentive for Sentinel to let the building fall into disrepair. Now that the place is empty, the company can more easily renovate and then sell or rent the units at higher prices, he notes.

“They didn’t offer the job, ‘You can come back in three months when we’ve done the job,'” Williamson says. “Obviously they want to start charging the new market value of rent. We’re just trying to raise awareness so other unsuspecting families don’t get caught up.”

Attached for comment by new times, Sentinel responded via email, “This is a settled matter that relates to accommodations that have been continuously provided by the property since the day residents were asked to vacate 700 Euclid. At no time were the residents left homeless. Most residents have found new apartments and for those who have not, housing has been extended until September 13.

Sentinel recorded 15 city code violations before the evacuation, according to city records. Violation notices included allegations of illegal dumping, working without proper permits, water-damaged ceilings and walls, broken stucco, lack of proper lighting in hallways and stairways, and a deteriorated exterior.

During a series of eight structural inspections in 2021, the building was repeatedly listed as “in violation”, according to city records.

According to the city’s structural condition assessment conducted on July 16, 2021, one unit showed signs of moisture in its ceiling and on a window lintel. The ceiling of the mechanical area of ​​the building also had water damage and numerous cracks on the facade of the building. The inspector found that the elevator was out of order and the hall was sinking, with a slight gap between the floor and the wall. None of these sightings, however, justified the evacuation of the tenants, according to the report.

“Based on on-site observations of the conditions of structural elements of the building, licensed professionals should be hired to obtain permits and begin construction of necessary repairs,” the report said. “However, the building is safe for habitation and, as is, poses no danger to the public and poses no imminent danger of collapse.”

The building underwent exterior renovations following the city’s assessment, said a member of the board of directors of neighboring South Beach villas. New times. City public records indicate that a work permit was issued in March of this year for the exterior paint job.

Yet many domestic problems persisted. When Williamson moved into the Annell in October 2021, there was still no working elevator.

It is at least the tenth building in South Florida to be classified as unsafe since the Surfside collapse, according to a CBS News report. Former residents of the Annell tell new times they hope their experience will convince city officials to take action against negligent landlords before it’s too late.

“The billionaire owners let these buildings fall into disrepair that the city has to shut them down so they don’t collapse on people or burst into flames,” Maldonado said. “It is completely unacceptable.”

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