Owner of troubled Osceola motel says she stopped paying utilities because tenants weren’t paying rent

Residents forced out after arson, no power at motel since December

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – The owner of an extended-stay motel in Osceola County appeared in court Tuesday months after all of the utilities were shut off leaving residents without power or water and then arson forced some tenants to leave.

Beginning Dec. 2 residents say they were living at Lake Cecile Inn & Suites, on West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, with no power, and two weeks before Christmas the water was shut off. Then on Jan. 14 a fire at the troubled motel was determined to be arson leading to the arrests of eight people, Osceola County deputies said. Twenty-two families lived at the motel at the time of the fire. Five families were displaced, deputies said, and moved to a nearby motel.

The families who lived at Lake Cecile Inn & Suites are like many living in Central Florida forced to rely on extended stay hotels due to a lack of affordable housing. The hotels offer an alternative to a permanent rental home because they do not require a deposit along with first and last month’s rent which can mean thousands of dollars upfront.

After the utilities were shut off, the hotel owners were ordered to appear Tuesday in court and address the next steps for the property.

Motel owner Mary Nguyen was in court for a hearing. She said she didn’t have the funds to make the utility payment because most of the residents at the motel weren’t paying rent months before the power was shut off.

She testified there were gang members moving on to her property and said the water boiler on the property was vandalized months ago.

“People went in there and completely ripped apart everything they could,” property manager Teena Conley said.

An attorney representing one of the families who lived at the motel said the owner hadn’t paid the bills in months and say many of the tenants were paying rent.

Conley said she is working with the motel owners to try and turn things around. She said she’s helping move residents to a motel next door.

“I gave them a discount to move over like $300 less than they’d pay over there,” Conley said.

Conley said she plans to fix up the Lake Cecile Inn & Suites property once all of the residents move out and reopen it soon.

“I’m trying to make sure that everyone has a place to go, everyone deserves a home,” Conley said.

Residents said the whole situation has been tough.

“This is impossible. No lights, no water, that’s too much,” resident Alcidy Maldonido said. “We can’t take a shower, we have to eat food and we can’t.”

KUA and the TOHO water authority said they’re willing to work with the motel owners, but the owners must still pay the required past due amount on their unpaid bills, plus a deposit for future services.

Court records in December showed the owner owed the TOHO water authority more than $7,000 and the Kissimmee Utility Authority more than $13,000. On Tuesday, KUA officials said the property owner still has an outstanding balance of about $8,500.

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