North Miami / NMB

North Miami

North Miami conducting ‘sweeps’ to find unsafe housing

 

pbuteau@MiamiHerald.com

Last month, when North Miami building inspectors surveyed Sun King Apartments, they found 14 violations.

The inspectors returned last Thursday morning for a second go-round to determine if the owner fixed the violations, but nine remained to be addressed, according to Gary Beswick, North Miami’s minimum housing compliance officer.

The first inspection of the 68-unit building found an abandoned pool on the roof with a pile of garbage in it, a puddle of water in the vacant apartment below, trash on hallway floors, holes alongside improperly installed air conditioning units, and an elevator with a missing certification, among other things.

Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue found seven additional violations in the February visit, including several for combustible trash.

Sun King, 12401 NE 16th Ave., was the target of the first of a series of “business inspection sweeps” North Miami has started to “make sure everyone has a safe, clean place to live,” according to North Miami police Maj. Robert Bage.

The city also is in the middle of updating its housing and building standards and landlord regulations. At the March 11 City Council meeting, final approval of the ordinance was delayed to allow time for a workshop to take place with landlords, tenants, and other residents.

Before the sweeps, the police department alone would handle enforcing the city’s code. Now the city’s code compliance, building, minimum housing, parks and police departments are working together to ensure standards are met. Bage said this allows them to inspect buildings faster and more thoroughly.

“In 2014 we’re working more hand-in-hand,” he said.

Bage also said the changes to the city code will “greatly help” them. The changes the council tentatively approved include a provision allowing city inspectors to enter units “at any reasonable time” after the “prior consent of the lawful occupant.” This allows tenants to invite inspectors into their apartments without waiting for the landlord’s approval.

These efforts come three months after the roof of Gold King Apartments, another North Miami apartment building, at 13285 NE Sixth Ave., collapsed under heavy rain and displaced more than 250 residents. Gold King Apartments’ owner, Shlomo Chelminsky, also owned Sun King from 2001 until 2012 when he sold the building to Econo Malls LTD for about $6.6 million, according to county records.

Some of Sun King’s violations date back to when Chelminsky owned the building.

Its current staff have boarded up the pool. Bage said the pool most likely won’t be functional again, but another city official said that isn’t their main concern.

“For us it’s not whether it’s functional, but whether it’s safe,” said Sharon Ragoonan, North Miami’s building and minimum housing manager.

Despite the building’s violations, police said Sun King could be considered a palace compared to some buildings on Northeast Sixth Avenue.

With Sun King’s violations photographed and noted, Beswick handed the building manager affidavits of service — the city will also mail them — to compel a representative of the apartment building to defend themselves during a hearing that will take place at 10 a.m. on April 2 at City Hall, 776 NE 125th St.

At the hearing, the building owner could receive more time to fix the violations or face fines depending on the severity of the violations. The fines will run daily until a certain point at which the city could place a lien on the building. With a lien the city has more leverage, Ragoonan said.

The city has not set a date for the workshop yet but Bage urged people to attend to give their opinions.

“It’s critical people come out to give their input,” he said. “Not only landlords and tenants, but concerned citizens too.”

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