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Tenants Say Liberty City Apartments Are Unliveable

Gregory Castillo

Before Joyce McGill washes her dishes every day, she places a blue roast pan underneath the leaky sink.

And it’s not just the sink. The ceiling leaks, too.

In this three-story apartment complex at 6040 NW 12 Ave. in the heart of Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood, there are even more egregious examples of poor living conditions.

In one apartment with three children, there’s no running water in the bathroom.

Mushrooms sprout out of moist walls in another one. Swaths of black, mold-like substances take over bathrooms in almost all the apartments.

In Miami-Dade County, 21 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Renters often hold on to an affordable apartment, even if conditions are deplorable.

"It's not enough affordable housing,” says Nathaniel Wilcox, president of People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality, or PULSE. “It’s not enough in the low-to-moderate income areas to accommodate people who are super-low in their income.”

The working poor, he says, are stuck in buildings like 6040 NW 12 Ave., where tenants say New Jersey-based landlord Denise Vaknin is a slumlord who blatantly ignores city and county codes.

A WLRN-Miami Herald News investigation found:

  • Vaknin owes the City of Miami $2.4 million in unpaid code, building and fire violations through six different apartment management companies.
  • Miami Beverly LLC, Vaknin’s company that manages 6040 NW 12 Ave., does not have the required state license to operate.
  • A recent state inspection found mold-like substances in most of the apartments at 6040 NW 12 Ave. The report also documented live roaches, doors in disrepair and damaged electric wires.
  • Required fire suppression equipment is nonexistent at the property, according to city records.

Miami filed suit against Vaknin's apartment management companies in October. The suit asks for the code violations to be fixed and for Vaknin to pay the city all outstanding fines.  According to the lawsuit,  tenants at Vaknin's properties "are having their health safety and wellness threatened."
Click here to see a photo gallery of 6040 NW 12 Ave. and read tenants’ stories.