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    Complex scrambling to make repairs

    But some residents say pesky rodents persist, and one says a leak damaged his belongings.

    By BRIAN MOORE

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published July 2, 2001


    CLEARWATER -- Belleair Gardens is busily trying to evict the rats and mice, a state inspector says.

    The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, has visited the apartment complex twice since June 20, when the St. Petersburg Times wrote about the pests in a third-floor unit and water damage to two units caused by a hole in the roof.

    Holes in an apartment wall, thought to be an access point for rodents, have been sealed, said Lonnie Parizek, press secretary for the agency. Roof work continues, and floor damage in another unit caused by a leaky air conditioner has been repaired. Management has a contract to spend $1,600 to fix and relocate the air conditioner, according to inspection records.

    A faulty exit sign has also been fixed.

    Samra Siddiqui and Muhammad Ansari say they've consistently complained to the property manager about a rat and mouse problem in their apartment. They live on the third floor of one of three buildings at Belleair Gardens at 2159 Nursery Road.

    State inspector Louay Bayyat ordered Professional Management Inc. of Orlando, the company that runs the apartments, to fix the problem in March.

    Terminix was paid $144 to treat the entire building, and Bayyat reported compliance to the order about a month later, records show.

    But the problem never was solved, Siddiqui said. This week, an apartment maintenance technician worked to fill a hole in the wall behind the couple's stove, according to Joan Copeland, west coast property manager for Professional Management.

    "They eat holes right through the wall," Copeland said. "We've even stuffed them with steel wool, but they just come right back through. Once they know where they can locate food, then they'll continue to try to come in."

    Terminix installed eight rat bait stations around the building in March, which are refilled with poisonous food weekly, Copeland said.

    Copeland said she has also been working with Angel Turribiate, who lives on the second floor just below Siddiqui and Ansari. Turribiate contacted attorney John Locke after rainwater spilled through the roof and the apartment above him and made its way into his apartment in May. He claims the water ruined some of his clothes, a dresser, a video camera, a still camera and a $600 stereo.

    Turribiate wants Professional Management to compensate him, but the company isn't legally bound to do so, Locke said. Turribiate's lease states the complex is not responsible for damaged personal items, and suggests tenants should get renter's insurance.

    Locke sent the company a letter this week requesting $1,000 and a penalty-free break from the lease for Turribiate. Copeland said Friday that if Turribiate documents the damage, and proves it was caused by the water leak, she will exempt him from the $560 he owes for May rent. With a month's notice, she'll release him from the lease, she said.

    "I told Angel that it's probably not going to be worth him fighting it," Locke said. "If this letter doesn't get anything more than him being allowed to break the lease, he'll probably come out ahead."

    Bayyat reported Thursday that an electrical problem -- a fire hazard -- had also been fixed in Turribiate's apartment, Parizek said.

    An inspection of Siddiqui and Ansari's apartment found "old rat droppings," indicating the problem may have been solved and the couple hasn't cleaned them up, Parizek said.

    "We can't find any evidence of continued rodent activity," she said.

    The couple maintains there's still a problem, and that they see mice every day.

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