Audra Wrights large garden outside her Liberty City home yielded a bounty of fruits and vegetable for years so much so that she figured she was able to cut her grocery bill in half for her and her three teenage sons.
But this summer, a broken sewage pipe from a neighboring apartment complex leaked waste into her garden, destroying the crop that she was counting on.
It really hit us hard, said Wright, 42, a vegetarian. We lost a lot more than they think. We lost our food.
She complained to the Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resource Management (DERM) in early June about the unsanitary conditions that cost the family their summer crop of mangoes, sugarcane, peppers, beans, tomatoes, collard greens, watermelons, basil and rosemary.
DERM notified the property agent, Pierre Clerveau, of the violation on June 14, which carried a $500 fine. Clerveau fixed the leak two weeks later.
A month later, a follow up inspection revealed that the repairs didnt take - raw sewage was once again seeping into Wrights garden.
The city slapped Clerveau with a $1,000 fine. Still, the problem persisted. On Aug. 14, DERM served the Clerveau with a court order to repair the pipe and clean up the stinky mess.
But the sewage pipe leaking on to a homeowners property isnt the only problem with the apartment units that Clerveau manages. He oversees nine complexes in South Florida, four of those in Liberty City. Records show residents have complained of moldy units, shoddy electricity, and waiting months for basic repairs.
The apartment complexes are owned by Abraham and Denise Vaknin, of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, through two different companies 1336 NW 60 LLC and Miami Beverly LLC. When reached by phone, Abraham Vaknin declined to comment.
Recently, Abraham Vaknin had invested in construction supplies and made a commitment to improve the living conditions, Clerveau said.
But many of the tenants have not seen a change.
Theres something wrong with every apartment in this building, said Clemon Dean, who has lived in 1341 NW 60th St. for 40 years and pays $350 a month. Hes always making promises but nothing gets fixed.
Dean, who has seen the building go through multiple owners, said the current owner is the worst one he has ever seen.
Qua Jefferson, 21, moved into the building with her two daughters five months ago. One of the first things she noticed was that her front door can easily be picked open. Anyone with a credit card can walk into her apartment.
Every time its the same thing, Jefferson said. He tells me, OK, Ill send them, but they never come.
Even when repair men show up, they do a lousy job, tenant Maria Hernandez, 24, said.
Days after Clerveau sent repair men to fix her toilet, it stopped working again.
Every time I pay rent, there is something else wrong with the building, said Hernandez, who pays $500, but plans to move out in the fall.
Not every tenant accused the management of being negligent.
Michael Jones, 50, has never had a problem with having things fixed during the two years he has lived in the complex. Whenever the sink or anything in the apartment needs repairs, someone stops by to fix it, he said.
People are trying to say hes a slum lord but I dont think so, he said. Its not a bad situation.