ORLANDO, Fla. — Tenants living in a network of facilities marketed towards the homeless say they’re a trap.
Channel 9 News has learned that a loophole in the laws regulating these facilities leaves the state with little power to intervene.
Timothy Clark says he learned he was evicted from his home after returning from a doctor’s appointment.
Clark says he was greeted by locked doors and all his belongings piled onto the sidewalk.
According to a code enforcement report, Clark had called about mold, a broken refrigerator, and other issues just days before the eviction. Clark claims his landlord was retaliating against him.
“The only time they would respond was around the first of the month, to make sure they came and got rent,” Clark said.
Clark and most of his neighbors are former homeless people, lured there by promises of a new start.
The homes, and others like them across Central Florida, are marketed as independent living facilities by a network of Limited Liability Corporations.
Documents show Clark’s home was advertised by Second Chance Housing and leased by Bridge the Gap Housing.
Video shot by the owner of Second Chance Housing shows off a spotless interior to one of his facilities.
Clark says their sales pitch included getting help for his health issues.
“Basically when I came in, it was all about the money,” Clark said.
Senior Justice Law Firm Attorney Michael Brevda says it’s unlikely any laws are being broken, because the LLCs are exploiting a loophole in Florida law that’s meant to protect vulnerable populations who don’t have the same leverage as most adults.
“They’ve passed a Resident Bill of Rights for assisted living facility residents under Chapter 429,” Brevda explained. “There is no such protection for residents of independent living facilities.”
Brevda says because the facilities are marketed towards the homeless, and not mental health patients, the state doesn’t regulate them. He says insurance companies place tenants in them because they’re willing to take less desirable cases.
Once a place is “green-lit,” it can become a steady source of income for its owner. Meanwhile, the tenants are off the radar.
“If the whistle gets blown at one single facility, it doesn’t interrupt the gravy train at the 22 other facilities that they own,” Brevda said.
Channel 9 News attempted to contact the owners of the LLCs connected to Clark’s home, but they have not responded.
When made aware of the situation, State Representative Tray McCurdy (D- Orange County) committed to trying to make a wording adjustment to state law to include Independent Living Facilities under the same Bill of Rights that protects others.
“These folks aren’t asking for anything that you and I wouldn’t ask for,” McCurdy said. “They’re asking for a decent living dwelling...and I think that’s fair.”
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