Article and Video Courtesy of News Channel 8 Tampa
July 28, 2015
A military family turned to 8 On Your Side last week
after they returned from the Middle East to find strangers living in
their home in Tampa’s Camden Woods neighborhood. Their homeowner’s
association was collecting $1,000 a month in rent. “This should be
criminal,” said homeowner Douglas Tupper. And it might be.
Tupper and his wife, Lori, were shocked
to find people living in their home. They abandoned the home
years ago because it is filled with toxic Chinese-made
drywall that made their family sick. When they were
deployed, they decided they shouldn’t rent the home because
it’s not safe to breathe in the fumes.
So they called the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to
report squatters. And they were shocked to find out the
squatters produced a lease with their names on it. But the
lease wasn’t signed and the sheriff’s office determined it
wasn’t real. Here’s where the story takes another turn.
Sentry Management, the property management firm
for the HOA, found the people living in the home but let them stay. A
property manager hand-collected $1,000 a month in rent. A spokesman for
the management company told 8 On Your Side that the Tuppers were $6,000
behind on dues and Florida law allows them to collect rent to pay the
|But 8 On Your Side took a closer look
at the law and found that may not be true in this case.
Florida law does allow an HOA to collect rent if a homeowner
rents out their house but fails to pay their HOA dues.
However, these weren’t legitimate tenants, the homeowners
didn’t know there were there, and the management company
admitted to 8 On Your Side that they knew that.
Steve Mezer, an attorney who represents homeowner’s
associations, says Camden Woods should have never collected
the rent. They should have called law enforcement, he said.
“They cannot attempt to collect rent from someone other than
a tenant,” Mezer said.
The association also put themselves at risk to be
held responsible for the damage the renters did to the home, Mezer said.
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office continues to investigate the HOA’s