Tampa veteran who complained about rats told to find another place to live

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — It isn’t the Taj Mahal, but Navy veteran Lee Hoffman found a new home in Tampa with the help of the VA.

The Tampa Housing Authority inspected the home, which is located on Lake Shore Drive, and taxpayer money helped fund Hoffman’s rent, which was paid to landlord Lisa Tamplin.

It sounds like a decent deal, but when Mr. Hoffman moved into his new apartment in May, he discovered unwanted company.

“Rats,” he said “Rats in the tree, I’ve seen a rat in my hallway.”

Hoffman showed us holes in the walls where he says he’s seen the rats come and go.

After a Target 8 investigation into his living conditions, the housing authority checked on the home again, and this time it failed inspection.

Margaret Jones, the Director of Assisted Housing, insists the house was inspected properly when it was first checked out. So, how did the inspector miss the holes in the walls?

“Again, you’re saying there are holes there now. When we inspected, we didn’t see holes,” said Ms. Jones. “In 30 days, anything can happen.”

The landlord, Lisa Tamplin was given until June 9 to fix the holes and told News Channel 8 the rat problem was under control.

“The holes are actually going to be repaired tomorrow,” Ms. Tamplin explained in a May interview.

But the housing authority says her repairs were subpar. The apartment failed the inspection and Tamplin wouldn’t be getting her taxpayer-funded rent money.

Since Tamplin won’t be paid, Lee Hoffman must find another place to live, and the burden of dealing with unfixed repairs falls on Hoffman. So, right now, he’s must find somewhere else to live.

“That’s why we are so clear when we tell them, before you move in, make sure that you know that this is a unit you want to move into,” explained Ms. Jones.

Mr. Hoffman knew he wanted to live in the Lake Shore Drive apartment, he just didn’t want the company of rats.

“I can’t handle the rats, I just can’t do it,” said Mr. Hoffman.

Hoffman’s apartment, which he shares with his family, is one of ten apartments Tamplin owns that are publicly subsidized.

“We can not force owners to make repairs,” said Ms. Jones.

The housing authority says it’s ready to provide Mr. Hoffman and his family a new voucher to find another apartment, but the housing market is tight and it already took him forever to find his current apartment.

Hoffman is not looking forward to moving and the costs that come with it. He says he does not have the money at this time.

To make matters worse, Hoffman heard from the VA regarding the debacle, and they told him that since he was not satisfied with the assistance that its housing specialist provided, he should be prepared to look for another apartment on his own. Hoffman tells us he feels abandoned by the agency.

Tamplin confirmed she was contacted by the VA after they received Hoffman’s complaint. She said she’s doing the best she can by placing traps and repellant around the property and told us she placed traps in the apartment and downstairs before Mr. Hoffman moved in. She admits that from time to time rats from the sewers have been able to enter the home through air conditioner lines. She does not want to close the holes in the walls because she says she does not want the rats dying in the walls. She claims she thought she had the problem eliminated until last Thursday when Mr. Hoffman contacted her and complained.

If you have a problem that you think should be investigated, call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808 or contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

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