Residents of a North Miami apartment complex are suing the landlord for negligence after their roof collapsed during a December storm.
Eleven current and former tenants are suing Gold King Apartments for an amount expected to total in the hundreds of thousands, after the Dec. 26 incident displaced them for nearly three weeks and caused damage to their property inside the apartments. The tenants are being represented by Legal Services of Greater Miami, Florida Legal Services and the law firm Hernandez Lee.
The complaint alleges that Shlomo Chelminsky, owner of Gold King Apartments, 13285 NE Sixth Ave., knew about the damage to the complex but did not act swiftly or responsibly enough to make repairs.
Chelminsky could not be reached for comment.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
After the storm, attorneys said they requested that Chelminsky make an effort to repair the damage within seven days, but he did not respond.
“What about those people who were displaced for three weeks? What about the people who lost their property?” asked Jeffrey Hearne, a senior attorney with Legal Services of Greater Miami.
Eric Hernandez, an attorney with Hernandez Lee, said that while three of the tenants have been able to move out, most have been prohibited from doing so by their lack of income.
“The conditions there were pretty awful, but many of them, unfortunately, didn’t have the choice or the financial ability to move on,” said Hernandez.
Among those people is Paul Dumornay, one of the 11 plaintiffs in the suit, who said the roof over his head has been fixed, but not entirely.
“In my bedroom the ceiling is cracked, and I’m worried about water coming in,” said Dumornay.
Dumornay said he has seen workers around the building painting and doing other work, but he has not seen Chelminsky in about a week. He said that the landlord approached him and gave him two options instead of joining the lawsuit.
“He said my first option was to make an arrangement with him and my second option was that he would give me three-day notice and then kick me out,” said Dumornay.
Chelminsky, the complaint said, also approached other tenants and threatened them with eviction if they did not sign a waiver of liability. Attorneys also allege that Chelminsky committed fraud and intimidated Marie Noel, a tenant who only speaks Creole.
The complaint said that an agent working for Chelminsky called Noel in to pick up her deposit and gave her a paper written in English that he claimed was a receipt. Her attorneys say the documents were actually statements that would have released Chelminsky from liability in the roof collapse.
“[The] landlord’s agent knew that his representations were false and that they were made solely to induce Ms. Noel to sign the documents,” the complaint said.
In the meantime, Dumornay hopes he can find a way for him, his wife and his five children to move out of the apartments soon, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.
“I’m working to see if I can move out, but with seven people it’s really expensive,” Dumornay said. “I don’t feel safe in this apartment.”