Melbourne apartment residents must move next week, or face eviction

Record-breaking rainfall and Hurricane Irma caused apartments to flood

By Rick Neale, FLORIDA TODAY

MELBOURNE, Fla. - Twenty beach-side households in the flood-damaged Brittany Apartment Homes must abruptly move out of their homes by the end of next week — or else they'll face eviction lawsuits.

Sunday's record-breaking rainfall caused "significant water intrusion" into some apartments, according to letters from a Clearwater law firm that were delivered to affected residents.

The letters stated that the complex owner, Northland Investment Corp., believed the 20 water-damaged apartments were uninhabitable and must be vacant to properly repair. So the company terminated those residents' leases, and all personal property must be removed by Oct. 14.

"If you fail to do so, Brittany Apartment Homes' management will have no choice but to file an eviction lawsuit against you. Hopefully, that will not be necessary," the letters concluded.

Ben Bowman lives in an apartment with his wife, Rachel, and three children, ages 3, 6 and 8. He discovered their eviction letter taped to their door Thursday night — and he likened the lawsuit threat with "twisting the knife."

"That was a hard thing to see. My wife was just devastated by this news," Bowman said.

Their apartment also flooded during Hurricane Irma last month, and he battled Sunday's floodwaters with two wet-dry vacuums until 3 a.m.

"We're all in the living room, because none of our bedrooms are usable because of the damage from the water. All my kids are sleeping on the floor — and wondering why we're moving again, and what's going on," Bowman said Friday.

"We don't really have answers. We don't really have a place yet. And it's not just us," he said.

The Brittany Apartment Homes complex features eight wood-frame-and-stucco apartment buildings across 14 acres off of Eau Gallie Boulevard on the barrier island.

On Sunday, Indialantic received 10.35 inches of rain, officials with the National Weather Service reported.

Northland Investment Corp. is a Massachusetts real estate company that also owns and manages Plantation Club at Suntree and three Melbourne apartment complexes: Caribbean Isle, Caribbean Villas and Lakeside at Greenboro.

"Northland has worked diligently and collaboratively with residents in response to these recent extreme weather events. The impacts on the lower level has been substantial, including interior flooding (and) damaged walls," the company officials said in a statement to FLORIDA TODAY.

"Our priority is to assure that living conditions are safe and meet all health standards. In this instance, damage to 20 units at the property cannot be fully remediated while tenants remain in place. We have therefore notified residents (that) impacted apartments must be completely vacant by October 14th so crews can properly make repairs."

"To assist residents, Northland is providing replacement apartment homes at one of four communities in the immediate vicinity, with the right to return to their unit at the Brittany after repairs are completed. We also are coordinating communication between residents and outside relief agencies, such as FEMA."

"Management and staff remain in close communication with residents to assist them as they work through this difficult situation," company officials added.

Brittany Apartment Homes residents who received notices to vacate can have their October rent and security deposits refunded or applied toward a replacement Northland apartment. After repairs are finished, those tenants can return home at the same rent.

Bowman works Tuesdays through Saturdays as a chef at Oh Biscuit in Eau Gallie.

He and his family face an uncertain future.

"It's very difficult to try and find a place when I have to work. Both my wife and I are working," Bowman said.

"We want to stay where we're at in Indialantic. We love it here. This is where our kids are now in school. This is where our family is. This is where our life is right now."

Contact Neale at 321-242-3638, rneale@floridatoday.com or follow @RickNeale1 on Twitter.

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