City of Miami inspectors respond to Little Havana rat-infested building

MIAMI (WSVN) - As frustrations run high for residents of a rat-infested Little Havana apartment building, a City of Miami Commissioner is working to get them the help they need.

Relief may be in sight for the residents of a rat-infested apartment building located at 946 SW 4th St. after a phone call made by Miami City Commissioner Joe Carollo led to inspectors coming to assess the building.

A resident showed 7News a notice posted on her front door informing her the structure is under new management, and that inspections and pest control is in progress.

Carollo personally visited the building Monday and called the conditions deplorable. “What I saw here, when I first came, what you see now, was total, total negligence,” he said.

Paula Laguna and her son Hezekiah are two of the residents in the building. She said she trapped another mouse in her son’s bedroom, Tuesday morning.

“I just woke up, and I saw it running under my TV cabinet,” said Hezekiah. “I saw three, and then this is the fourth one,” he said.

“He wake up and say, ‘Mommy, mommy, the rat is in the room,'” said Laguna.

One of the rodents got caught underneath a dresser. “We hear, ‘Wee, wee, wee.’ All the time you hear it,” said Laguna.

“There were rat feces everywhere and piles of it,” said Carollo. “I’ve never seen anything as bad as this.”

Although she’s blocked off every opening at the home, Laguna said the rats still manage to get in and bite her and her family. On Tuesday, she woke up to a new bite on her leg.

Laguna and her family are not alone in their complaints. Other residents voiced similar feelings.

The conditions at the building came to light last week, when Jackson Memorial Hospital nurses came to treat at least six children for rat bites. The young patients had skin infections and sores.

“I can’t scratch it, or it’s going to spread,” said Hezekiah.

Since then, Carollo became involved, making a third visit on Tuesday. “Since these people don’t have anyone to speak up for them, they don’t have the financial means to defend themselves, then the system just doesn’t care about them, and this is why I’ve become their voice because this shouldn’t happen,” Carollo said.

However, one resident, who didn’t want to speak on camera, told 7News the situation isn’t as bad as it sounds. But the complaints were strong enough to make the building owner call in crews to make things better.

“The conditions that they were living under were third world-like conditions, if not worse,” said Carollo.

On Tuesday, fire safety inspectors and maintenance crews came to the building, as well as police officers looking for squatters.

The commissioner said the next step may be a lawsuit filed by the city, pushing to withhold rent from the property owner. “The city’s gotta do what it has to do, and I foresee that one of the things we have to do is make sure that they’re gonna refurbish this building the right way is, we’re gonna have to sue them,” he said, “so we can put those monies in escrow that are being paid in rent until they do what they’re supposed to do by this building.”

Carollo said he was told that the property owners are willing to help pay the rent for a new home for those who are unhappy with the current situation. However, they must find a new residence themselves.

7News reached out to the owner, but a man who said he’s a representative for him said he is doing everything they can to make things right.

Carollo said he will be keeping an eye on things.

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