Residents living in Bayside Villas who say their leases are not being renewed because they are speaking to the press are making “completely untrue” statements, according to the property owner.
“It’s absolutely nonsense,” Robert Goodman said Tuesday. “I don’t have contact with the tenants like that. Retaliation like that is against every Fair Housing directive there is. It’s absolute nonsense, and we never intimidate or coerce a tenant like that. They are saying it for reasons that are completely untrue.”
After the Bradenton Herald reported Sunday on “deplorable” conditions found there, some residents at the apartment complex, just off 20th Lane East in Palmetto, say they’ve been told their leases will not be renewed because they talked to the media.
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“They want us out of here,” said Willie “Mr. Jack” Davis, 73, who receives Section 8 vouchers from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to pay for his housing. “He’s not going to rent this to no more Section 8.”
Another Bayside Villas resident Barbara Williams, 67, added: “It’s just getting worse and worse. The intimidation.”
But Goodman says the claims that he will not renew tenants who receive vouchers are “nonsense.”
“We have almost always — with rare exceptions — agreed to renew leases with tenants who wish to renew,” Goodman said in an email sent Tuesday to the Herald. “We do not renew leases where we need or choose to make major renovations in a unit or where a unit has had persistent bedbug issues and we need to treat an empty unit multiple times to completely eradicate the issue.”
Although no longer a property in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development lending portfolio, Bayside Villas has continued to accept USDA and Section 8 vouchers, Goodman said.
“Renewing tenants have been paying less rent than new tenants, although renewing tenants usually have a rent increase at renewal to near the community standard,” Goodman said. “Section 8 and USDA voucher holders are paying less than open market new tenants in our community, although we have tried to close the gap in fairness to everyone.”
Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith said he has an appointment set with State Attorney Ed Brodsky in December to discuss the situation.
“My intention is to meet with him before the federal government,” Smith said, adding that he has no doubt that people are being told their leases won’t be renewed for speaking to the media. “It is just a travesty situation. It is time for people to step up to the plate. It’s not just there. It’s countywide.”
If Davis’ lease is not renewed, he said it will be difficult to find a place to live in Manatee County with his Section 8 voucher.
“It’s kind of hard right now,” he said. “They’ve got a big waiting list. It’s going to take a long time. ... They don’t care. They don’t care about us. They don’t care about nothing but themselves.”
While many residents complain about the conditions at the Palmetto complex, one resident says she has not had a similar experience.
“It’s been fine with me,” said Carla Mays, who has lived in her apartment for nearly 16 years. “I don’t have complaints. ... I don’t know what’s going on in other people’s apartments. I have had no problem with them at all. I just don’t want to say the wrong thing because I don’t know what’s going on with certain individuals.”
In her time living at Bayside Villas, Mays, 52, said she’s had her whole apartment redone, including new flooring and doors.
“I feel free to speak because I haven’t had no problem as long as I’ve stayed out here,” she said.
But 73-year-old Myrtice McNeil, who has lived in Bayside Villas for the past 11 years, said she has been asking for repairs to take place in her apartment for a long time. Palmetto Equities LLC, the company that owns Bayside Villas, has filed a complaint for tenant eviction against McNeil who has “failed to pay the full rent amount due under the rental agreement,” according to the complaint.
McNeil, who will be moving out of her apartment and into her daughter’s house in Palmetto this Friday, said she has never been late with rent.
“I ain’t never been late with my rent,” McNeil said as she stood outside her apartment Tuesday morning. “I ain’t been late or anything. I’m happy leaving here. I don’t want to deal with them no more. If they want this old ratty apartment, they can have it.”
With regard to tenant lease renewals and evictions, Goodman said they “always consulted” with Susie Copeland, former president of the Manatee NAACP. In the case of 91-year-old Aliene Cox, whose lease is not being renewed after living in Bayside Villas for 24 years, Goodman said Copeland was involved in the decision.
But Copeland, who began working with the complex in fall 2013, said other than being paid about $2,700 in 2014 for consulting, she has not be involved with Bayside Villas.
“When he first took over, he did bring me on board initially, but I have not been really associated with the complex,” Copeland said.
Goodman said it’s a lie that Copeland is denying her recent involvement with Cox.
“I’m amazed that she would say that,” Goodman said. “I assume it would put her in a bad light if she told the truth. She was the one who met with the tenant. If she says anything other than that, it’s an outright lie.”
After the story initially published online Tuesday afternoon, Copeland sent an email to Goodman and Smith saying that she received an email from the owner about a month ago regarding Cox’s bedbug infestation but never went to the unit to speak with the resident.
“My recent association/involvement with complex is when owner calls me or tenant calls, which have been Jackie Anderson/Willie Davis,” she said in the email. “I have no reason to lie about my involvement with owner or tenant(s). I will always stand on my integrity and how I deal with people and/or situations.”