Central Florida apartment complex reverses course after announcing rent increase during coronavirus pandemic

While thousands have applied for rental and mortgage assistance, a rental company with low-income housing across Central Florida sent out notices they would be raising rent, and blaming the federal government for allowing the increase.

ORLANDO, Fla. — While thousands have applied for rental and mortgage assistance, a rental company with low-income housing across Central Florida sent out notices they would be raising rent, and blaming the federal government for allowing the increase.

After Channel 9 investigative reporter Karla Ray started asking questions on behalf of renters, she was able to help them get relief.

River Ridge Apartments in Orlando is one of several complexes in the area owned by ConcordRENTS. Managers sent letters to tenants over the last week warning they would be raising rent by next week.

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The four-year resident of River Ridge who reached out to 9 Investigates didn’t want to be identified for fear of losing the only place she has to live with her kids, but she showed us the letter. It cites federal Housing and Urban Development median household income guidelines as a reason that, despite hundreds of thousands of jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, rent would be going up.

“There are people not working at all, and as we all know, there are issues with the unemployment system,” the resident said. “A lot of people can’t get onto it.”

In an email, ConcordRENTS initially told us, “We recognize that we are in the midst of unprecedented times and many Florida residents have experienced economic hardship as a result of the current global pandemic... [but] With regard to affordable housing rent increases, both the amount and the timing of the monthly rent increases are determined by HUD.”

HUD officials fired back, telling 9 Investigates, “HUD has no control over how rents are set… [and] this rent increase is not required or suggested by HUD and we are surprised that a property owner would be so out of step with the moment in which we are living to seek one.”

Hours after Ray sent that response to ConcordRENTS, they reversed course, notifying residents that as long as their rent was paid on time, the increase would be waived for the time being.

“At least wait until something can be figured out, hopefully we flatten the curve or find the vaccine, just do it later,” the River Ridge resident told us.

As more people lose their jobs around Central Florida, they are turning to the government for help paying their bills.