ORLANDO, Florida. –As Tammi Renner prepared to leave North Carolina to be closer to her family in central Florida, she went online looking for an affordable rental home that fit her budget.
Renner eventually found a modest home in the Parramore neighborhood of Orlando with advertised rent at $ 650 per month. However, by the time Renner received his first monthly bill, additional charges assessed by the property management company increased his payment by several hundred dollars.
Renner’s October bill was originally over $ 1,300 before the property management company agreed to waive some of the extra charges.
This Florida Beach Coast company is currently facing at least ten lawsuits from tenants who claim they were misled about the homes they were renting or about the money they would be required to pay.
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Florida Beach Coast has not responded to any of the complaints filed in court, in part because the plaintiffs have had difficulty serving the lawsuits to company officials.
“I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into,” Renner said. “I was just excited to be accepted.”
Before Renner had a chance to view the rental agreement, she said Florida Beach Coast required her to pay a non-refundable deposit of $ 1,570 which included the first month’s rent and other standard charges. in the home rental industry.
Before moving in, the company asked Renner to pay an additional $ 1,500 to cover unspecified “service charges” and “maintenance, update and design charges”.
“They took $ 3,000 from me just to move in here,” Renner said.
She had planned to live in the house for only three months while she searched for a longer term rental property.
After agreeing to pay the Florida Beach Coast fees, Renner signed the 12-page rental agreement.
“Honestly, this lease was so long that I didn’t read much of it,” Renner said. “I wish I had really looked at the fine print.”
Had Renner looked at the rental agreement carefully, she would have discovered that Florida Beach Coast charges tenants several additional fees, including mandatory fees, which can dramatically increase the monthly rent payment advertised.
Renters are required to pay a monthly fee of $ 20 to use an Internet portal required to pay rent and schedule maintenance online. The company charges an additional $ 50 if tenants lock out of the gate.
Renters who do not set up automatic rent payments from their bank account must pay an additional monthly fee of $ 50.
If the rental home is equipped with a stove, dishwasher, or refrigerator, tenants must pay a monthly appliance rental fee of $ 25.
According to the lease, some Florida Beach Coast homes are randomly monitored by security cameras connected to the Internet. Renters are required to pay $ 75 per month for this Internet service.
The company is also evaluating a mandatory monthly fee of $ 50 for “Covid-19 / government regulation.”
“It’s not like they come and disinfect or anything,” Renner said.
Nadia Sanchez, Florida East Coast manager, said the fees help the company cover costs such as those incurred by the CDC’s now-rescinded moratorium on code violations caused by others. tenants and property taxes.
“The charges are fully disclosed in all advertisements, online and in written rental agreements,” Sanchez said.
To discourage renters from contacting Florida Beach Coast by phone, renters are charged $ 50 to receive a return phone call from the company.
“Which company charges you $ 50 to call them?” Renner said.
Sanchez said the company prefers to communicate with tenants through the online portal or by email.
“A lot of people will claim that they haven’t been told anything or that they haven’t said this or that. We get everything in writing, ”Sanchez said. “Phone call charges are meant to discourage phone calls because we don’t have the staff capacity to answer all calls. “
When Renner attempted to dispute the charges on her October rent bill, she was unable to speak to anyone about Florida Beach Coast in person because the company does not disclose her office address to the public.
Instead, the company uses the address of the US post office in Gotha.
“There is a safety issue for our employees,” Sanchez said. “The vast majority of our interactions with the general public are positive. However, our staff members face daily threats, verbal and written, by email, SMS or telephone. “
Sanchez said Florida Beach Coast doesn’t reject tenants with criminal records like some other landlords might.
“We argue that people with imperfect backgrounds are looking to improve their lives and also need a place to live,” Sanchez said. “We are proud to welcome them to our home.
Limited liability companies like Florida Beach Coast LLC are required by state law to indicate “the street and mailing address of the company’s registered office” on documents filed with the Florida Secretary of State, as well as the mailing address of the registered agent of the company.
On documents filed by Crown corporations, Florida Beach Coast uses the Gotha Post Office as the primary address and registered agent address.
Florida Beach Coast claims to comply with state law by using the Postal Service’s “Street Addressing” program, which the USPS website describes as a “premium post office box.”
The Florida Division of Corporations specifically advises LLCs that PO Box numbers are not acceptable.
By using the address of a post office, Florida Beach Coast avoided being served with lawsuits from tenants and contractors, court records show.
In April, a tenant sued the company for allegedly making it pay $ 675 in code-mandated repairs after renting a “dangerous” home in Wildwood from her family. A bailiff was unable to officially notify Florida Beach Coast of the trial because court documents could not be served at the Gotha post office address, according to court records.
When a carpet company tried unsuccessfully to serve legal action on the post office address for what it claimed was an unpaid invoice, court records show the contractor attempted to serve the action sued at the Windermere home of registered agent and Florida Beach Coast manager, Ben Spivey.
Spivey is a former dentist who has been repeatedly sanctioned by the Florida Department of Health for failing to meet minimum standards of care and keeping dental records, according to state records. The Florida Department of Health revoked Spivey’s license to practice dentistry in 2017, four months before he established Florida Beach Coast, according to state records.
Spivey did not respond to emailed requests for comment from Florida Beach Coast.
“I was furious. I was angry. I was ready to try and find them, ”Renner said after discovering an additional $ 250 charge on his monthly bill for lawn maintenance.
Renner takes issue with Florida Beach Coast’s claim that a lawn maintenance contractor cut her lawn, insisting she mowed the lawn herself and never saw a contractor on the property. After News 6 inquired about lawn maintenance fees, Florida Beach Coast took them off Renner’s bill.
The company also removed a $ 100 fee related to its requirement that tenants upload a copy of their tenant’s insurance policy to the online tenant portal. Renner said she uploaded the documents hours before her rent payment was due.
Florida Beach Coast also removed a late fee of $ 175 that Renner accumulated while attempting to dispute the charges.
“We don’t believe Ms Renner got an incorrect charge,” Sanchez said. “We apologized to him for any communication problem. “
Although Renner will have to vacate the house later this month when her three-month lease expires, she said she was concerned Florida Beach Coast would assess other charges before she left.
“This is all so amazing to me,” Renner said. “I wake up in the morning and I’m like, ‘Is this real? “”
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