Miami residents face evictions as they complain about filthy living conditions
Inside Karen Roberson’s Lincoln Fields apartment the living room has no lighting, bathroom ceilings are moldy and there are holes where rats come and go. She’s been complaining about living conditions since she moved into the unit in 2012.
“They’ll come and they spray something and paint over it, and it’ll come right back,” she told the Miami Herald about the mold.
Roberson was among a dozen residents at a press conference on Tuesday to raise awareness of their living conditions and what they say are illegal evictions. Led by the Miami Workers Center, tenants detailed ignored pleas for help while being harassed for rent they say they already paid.
“We want to make sure that they have a space to share their voices and be heard,” Santra Denis, executive director with the Miami Workers Center, said.
Lincoln Fields was built in 1946, according to property records. The housing complex is owned by Southport Financial Services and managed by Cambridge Property Management. The companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Denis said her nonprofit organization has been in contact with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office on the matter. In 2021, Rubio, a Florida Republican, wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge about properties managed by Cambridge Management in Florida, including Lincoln Fields.
“I urge that immediate action be taken at these properties to ensure that tenants are afforded the living conditions they are guaranteed by law,” Rubio wrote in his letter. At that time, Lincoln Fields had a Real Estate Assessment Center failing physical inspection score of 44/100.
Sedrika Jacques, a resident at Lincoln Fields and volunteer with Miami Workers Center, spearheaded efforts to address the ongoing issues at the property, including fending off rats and other pests, but said she has faced retaliation.
“We shouldn’t be living inside these places, but we don’t have anywhere to go,” Jacques said. “By us not having anywhere to go, we have to settle for whatever we have right now.”
Jacques’ apartment doesn’t have lighting in the living room and because one bathroom has had mold and bugs in it since she moved in, she, her daughter and her grandchildren have to use one restroom.
Jacques’ complaints, she said, have had her labeled a threat by management. “I’m a disabled woman. How am I a threat to the community?” she asked during the press conference.
She said she began looking into issues at her apartment complex four years ago, when she first moved in. At the beginning of the year, Jacques began collecting signatures for a petition to address poor management practices among other concerns. That’s when she was threatened with eviction, she said.
“They say I didn’t pay, but the rent was already paid two months in advance,” Jacques said.
Jeffrey Hearne has been with Legal Services of Greater Miami for 22 years and represents about 30 residents at the property, including Jacques, who have been threatened with eviction. “We are seeing a lot of problems with their tenant files,” he said. “We’ve had cases where they magically find money orders when the case is going into a hearing.”
Hearne said the property has always had a history of issues and evictions have increased since December. “They filed almost 60 evictions since December. There’s only 210 units here. So that’s a large percentage,” Hearne told the Herald.
So far, he said he’s been able to get three evictions dismissed. “A lot of the ledgers we’re looking at, the landlord hasn’t done the right things,” he said, adding the complex is income-based housing. “So there’s a lot of paperwork that needs to be completed when income changes, when rent changes. And we’re finding that that hasn’t always been done.”
Miami-Dade County Chief Community Services Officer Morris Copeland, said he knows the area well. “I grew up in this neighborhood and lived here for a while, I lived down the street,” he said.
Copeland, who represented Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava at the press conference, listed measures the city is taking to help residents, including pausing evictions until Legal Services of Greater Miami and HUD can conduct an investigation and ensure people aren’t wrongfully being evicted.
Copeland said the county has contacted state and federal agencies regarding the development and have requested an investigation be conducted into Lincoln Field’s management and evictions.
“We are committed to working with all of our partners to try to prevent any families from being unfairly displaced,” he said.
Jacques said she wants management to stop the evictions and actually address tenants concerns. “At the end of the day, we don’t have to live like this.,” she said. “We shouldn’t live like this.”