Saturday, July 11, 2009

Leif's Twenty-Second Home - Tampa, Florida - February to October 2006

When Leif moved to Tampa with Donna in February 2006, his dad asked him whether the apartment he had leased on E. Sligh Avenue was in a safe neighborhood. Leif insisted it was. I don't know whether he really believed that, or whether he was just reassuring us. In truth, I think that he probably did think it was safe, since he had lived in so many different places with some many different kinds of people safely. It looked like a peaceful enough neighborhood.

However, he began to have problems not long after he moved in. He wanted to keep his car and his cycle in pristine condition, and was vastly annoyed at dings on his car doors. However, that was the least of his problems. Five months after he moved in, in July 2006, I got a call from him saying he and Donna would not be able to come to our house for dinner with the family (his brother, Peter Anthony and family were here visiting) because that afternoon, in broad daylight, while he was gone for only an hour (it was his day off), someone had jimmied the lock on his patio door and broken into his first floor apartment. They had kicked in the locked bedroom door and ransacked the entire place. They stole his guns, a laptop computer, cell phone, jewelry, and more. They broke the door frame, broke the king-sized bed frame upending it looking for loot.

He and Donna were afraid, knowing that the thieves had his guns and could so easily get into the apartment. The management didn't fix the patio door or provide them with any kind of secure way to close it, so Leif jammed a shower curtain rod in the frame to try to prevent the door from opening and piled an extra mattress against it. He had quite a time doing the claim for his insurance, and luckily had renter's insurance that covered his belongings.

Ninety days after the burglary, the management still hadn't fixed any of the damage, not the broken patio door lock, not the splintered bedroom door frame, not the bedroom door with the big hole kicked in it, and Leif had enough. He decided to break his lease, use some of his insurance money, and move out. He thought he had taken care of everything with the management, but not long after he moved out, he was presented with a bill for over $900, with a claim that he had not put down any cleaning deposit, so they wanted to charge him to clean an apartment that had been appallingly dirty when he rented it. He had dated photos to show that, including the electric stove burner burn on the kitchen floor that the were now trying to charge him for. They also were charging him for breaking his lease.

Fortunately, Leif had his copy of the lease which proved that he had paid a cleaning and security deposit, and they apparently couldn't find their copy, or at least they never produced it when we requested to see it. He also had documented the break-in extensively with photos, and the aftermath showing that things had not been fixed. He felt they had not upheld their end of the lease by providing a safe, habitable apartment.

We spent many hours documenting their negligence in not repairing the damage that was dangerous to human habitation and contesting their charges. They continued for nearly a year and a half to try to collect the money, finally sending the account to a collection agency. When we sent the collection agency the entire file with photos and all the communications, they dropped the attempt to collect, but this went on until just a few months before Leif's death.

He and Donna lived on the first floor at the back of the building on the left. The other photo is of the damage to the sliding glass door. You can see all of the pry marks that completely bent the metal and destroyed the lock.

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