MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - A Miami Beach apartment building owned by the mayor of Surfside has sent an email to tenants stating their leases will be terminated, and they have just over a month to vacate the building, so crews can complete repairs to the building.
Dozens of residents at the Lois Apartments, at 2001 Bay Drive, received an email Thursday that notified them of their terminated leases. It reads in part, “We would ask that you make arrangements to vacate the building as soon as possible, but no later than 45 days from today.”
Tenants who spoke with 7News on Thursday said they should have been notified much sooner.
“They think that it will be best for us to leave because it will be too dangerous, or they would need space in order to continue working on the building,” a resident said. “They could have told us like a month ahead or with a little more time to prepare.”
“It’s falling apart,” another resident said. “We’re paying rent every month, and now they’re just sending us emails to move out in 45 days.”
Friday afternoon, resident Bianca Correa said she doesn’t know what her next move will be.
“Like, oh my God, where am I going to go?” she said.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the email was not an eviction notice, and instead, it is a notice that residents have to leave for two to three months while repairs are made. He added the residents can return to the building once repairs are done.
Building management said they have determined it is too dangerous for the building to remain occupied during the “intensive construction.”
“For tenants who have paid their rent on time and who have not damaged their unit, any unused rent will be refunded as will your full security deposit,” the email read.
The building was damaged during Hurricane Irma in 2017 when a large tree fell over, causing extensive damage to the balconies and elevator.
Just over two weeks ago, a 7 Investigates story first exposed issues like rainwater in the staircase. Residents detailed the building’s problems, including a malfunctioning elevator and blocked-off balconies.
“They are actually working on the elevator problems, saying they’re going to repair the building and the balconies. We have almost a year with the elevator broken,” a resident said. “For me it’s been hard and for my family, because every time we go for groceries, we have to go with three packs of water three times up to the third floor, where I live.”
Weeks after the Surfside building collapse, Burkett acknowledged the building’s issues and said he was getting permits for building repairs.
“That damage needs to be fixed,” he said. “We don’t want any of our tenants getting hurt, and it’s going to become a construction site.”
Residents will have until Oct. 24 to vacate the building.
“We’re moving from the fourth floor. How are we going to do that?” said resident Ramiro Picos. “Is Charles Burkett going to come and help me move it down, help me with the couch? C’mon, Charles Burkett, help me.”
“You know, we’ve gotta have them move out because we’re going to go into each one of those units and do a thorough inspection,” Burkett said. “Not only is it going to be the structural inspection, but it’s going to be an electrical inspection, too, and we’re going to do fire work. We’re going to upgrade the fire systems in that building, so it’s going to be a complete redo.”
Burkett spoke with 7News on Friday and said he is waiting on one more permit to begin the work. He blamed the City of Miami Beach for what he described as a slow process.
“The City of Miami Beach has failed to give us the permits, probably because they’ve lost the plans. They’ve asked us to resubmit the plans,” he said.
Buut a spokesperson for Miami Beach issued a statement that reads in part, “We have all of the plans that were submitted to us. What we do not have are signed and sealed plans which show the scope of work change.”
The 7 Investigates team also found a lawsuit of Perkins Roofing Corporation vs. The Lois Apartments LLC.
In the lawsuit, the roofing company alleges Burkett’s company “breached the contract by failing and refusing to pay” for a nearly $47,000 roof on the Lois building that was finished in 2019.
“I paid the roofer the day we signed the contract,” said Burkett. “The total amount for that roofer is in a trust. The problem is, is when that roofer put the roof on, he promised that there would be no puddling or pooling on the roof, and every time it rains, there are large pools and puddles of water.”
In court documents, the roofer counters that by saying that the roof passed city inspection, and rainwater on the roof evaporates within two days, so it meets building code.
Burkett added that he hopes the elevator will be fixed in just a few days, which will help as tenants move out.
When asked why he asked tenants to move out when repairs on the building were planned for years, Burkett said, “Now you have a confluence of events that’s going on, because we’re about ready to start construction on the balconies, and now we’re getting ready to start construction related to the repairs that we’re gonna do based on the findings that are appearing.”
Going into more detail about the extent of the construction project, Burkett said, “The balconies are going to be brand-new, and the rest of the building is going to be brand-new after we finish with our work related to the 40-year recertification, but we can’t risk the safety of the tenants.”
Burkett said he will not pay for moving expenses, but anyone who overpaid for rent will be refunded.
Tenants who have not damaged their units will also receive their security deposit.
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