Residents of Derelict Coconut Grove Building Facing Homelessness - NBC 6 South Florida

Residents of Derelict Coconut Grove Building Facing Homelessness

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    Residents of Derelict Coconut Grove Building Facing Homelessness

    Residents of a Coconut Grove building beset by deplorable conditions are now fearing they may become homeless. (Published Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016)

    Residents of a Coconut Grove building beset by deplorable conditions are now fearing they may become homeless.

    Mold growing on air conditioning wall units and garbage piled up for weeks, this is how residents live inside 3410 Hibiscus Street.

    "It's deplorable," tenant Willie Ruth Hutchins said.

    Roaches sit in standing water, while mosquitoes feast on trash overflowing into a back porch. Tenant Renescha Coats said she knew the living conditions were bad, however, the big concern came when a demolition notice was posted on her door without warning from her landlord.

    "We're paying you rent, you could've at least told us 'look, they're coming to demolish the building, you guys gotta start finding somewhere to go,'" Coats said.

    Coats and her family went to city commissioner Ken Russell for help. After visiting every property owned by the same landlords along Grand Avenue, Russell says he knew he had to take legal action.

    "This horrified me to really walk into someone's apartment and not be able to breathe because of the mold in the air," Russell said.

    Per Florida records, the building and at least 10 others in West Coconut Grove are owned by Julio Marrero, Orlando Benitez Jr. and Phillip Muskat.

    "We immediately filed a lawsuit against this landlord to either bring these places up to speed or help with the relocation of every resident," Russell said.

    Eddy Leal represents one of the owners, Orlando Benitez Jr. He said Marrero handles the properties.

    "We do not control, we are a minority shareholder. We do not deal with the day to day management of the corporation," Leal said.

    Julio Marrero released a statement that says in part:

    "This started with a stockholders dispute that's gone on since 2010 when Mr. Benitez became a rogue stockholder and attacked the same companies he is a stockholder, officer, and director of. Because of this litigation, the company has no money to repair the properties."

    With many of the properties up for sale and one slated for demolition, most tenants say they have no where to go. Rent at the Hibiscus Street apartments is $400 a month.

    "They don't really care about us because they would've informed us about what was going on. They would've made repairs to stop what's going on," tenant Rolando Wright said.

    "The thought you can now have a big sale and kick everyone out and that's all that has to happen, no way," Russell said. "We are absolutely injecting ourselves as a city in the middle of this."