Miami City Commissioner responds to building where rats bit children

MIAMI (WSVN) - Residents at a Little Havana apartment building have gotten a city commissioner’s attention after, they said, several children were bitten by rats.

Miami City Commissioner Joe Carollo said he is disgusted with the situation and that no one should live in a rodent-infested apartment.

Exterminators arrived to the building, Monday evening, and the property manager is now overseeing repairs, but residents say the efforts are not enough.

Monday morning, another one of Paula Laguna’s children were bite by a rat. “I always scratch it, so it could go away,” said her son, “and it keeps going more.”

7News cameras captured a repairman as he prepared to work in Laguna’s unit at 946 SW 4th St., Sunday.

“We actually have no idea what’s going in,” said the repairman. “We just got called to fix up some holes.”

Laguna acknowledged the property manager has taken steps to address the rat infestation. “He’s trying. I can’t say no; he’s trying,” she said. “I am not the only one with this problem; it’s all the building.”

The tenant said the property manager, who stopped by Sunday, is trying to get something done, but it’s not enough.

“I mean, I’ve never seen anything as bad as this,” Carollo said.

Carollo, who represents the area, made a second visit to the complex on Monday to try to find a solution.

He said the next step may be a lawsuit filed by the city, pushing to withhold rent from the property owner. “And if they don’t fix the building, for the city to use that money for the people that are there,” Carollo said. “At the same time, we’re looking at possibilities of shutting them down.”

Laguna said she pays too much in rent to have rodents chewing through the walls. A rat bite left her 15-month-old with scabies.

“I don’t have a car. When I go to City Hall, I knock the door. When I go to the police, I knock the door. When I go to the inspector and knock the door, nobody answers,” she said. “I don’t have any answer for that.”

But if the hole repair and fumigation only happens in Laguna’s apartment and not the entire building, tenants said, the vermin will just spread out.

“I don’t think it’s fair that only she’s getting her apartment fumigated,” said Taymara Linarte, a mother of four. “Nobody else is getting fumigated. All of us have rats in our apartments.”

At least six children were checked out by nurses from Jackson Memorial Hospital on Thursday.

City of Miami officials said the building has a long history of code violations and that this is actually a common problem in South Florida. The commissioner said it is time for the city, county and state to work together to keep things up to code.

“You have thousands of people in Miami-Dade County living in similar situations such as this,” Carollo said. “The system just doesn’t care about them.”

Laguna said she was offered her deposit back if she leaves by Tuesday, but she’s nervous about trusting those who allowed the building to deteriorate like this.

“I don’t have the money for leaving, and I don’t trust in him,” she said.

Her neighbors just want a fair resolution, as well as a safe place for their families. “Treat us like human beings, not like animals,” said Linarte.

7News reached out to the owner of the apartment building. As of Monday, he had not responded.

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