Gaby Connor, a UF public relations senior, came home from class Wednesday to a 4-foot hole in her ceiling that exposed wooden planks and showered debris.
Connor, 24, and her three roommates live in a four-bedroom apartment in College Park Apartments near Midtown. The ceiling collapsed in one of the roommate’s bedrooms.
When Connor moved into the apartment at 414 NW 14th St. in August 2017, she said there was a leak coming from the air conditioning for about two weeks that was never fixed. College Park sent someone to fix the leak two or three days before the ceiling collapsed, Connor said.
“These are really outdated units and homes that they just bought up, but they refuse to fix anything,” Connor said. “They just put a Band-Aid over it. I feel like it was a long time coming for the ceiling to fall.”
One of Connor’s roommates tore her ACL three and a half weeks ago, and the ceiling fell onto both of her legs, Connor said. The roommate may be suing College Park. She denied comment.
Gainesville Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Stephen Hesson said rescuers treated the incident as an emergency medical service call. The report said a piece of the ceiling fell on a person and they evaluated her for injuries.
Firefighters told Connor that breathing in the debris was unsafe, but College Park’s property manager didn’t advise them to leave, Connor said. Hesson said there may have been concerns about inhaling the drywall in the air and the structural stability of the apartment.
The property manager offered to relocate Connor and the other residents to a vacant one bedroom unit with a couch and suggested she could provide them with air mattresses, according to Connor. Connor’s mom got The Collier Companies, the owners of College Park, to provide the girls with two hotel rooms for two days.
On Friday morning, Connor returned to the apartment from the hotel and said the hole still hasn’t been fixed.
“I’ve been here since 9:30 (a.m.), and I haven’t seen anybody come yet,” she said. “I’m not really sure when they’re going to work on it. We deal with stuff like this and various issues at this apartment all the time.”
Maintenance workers came Monday to remove dehumidifiers from the apartment but said they were unable to because College Park had not fixed the leak. Connor said another maintenance worker came to check the air conditioning unit around 10:30 a.m. and said he would return but never did.
Kali Blount, the co-chair of Alachua County Housing Authority, said he has been advocating for affordable, safe housing in Gainesville at local government meetings. He said some landlords are not fixing issues while apartment prices increase and quality diminishes.
“If I were them, I would certainly call code enforcement,” Blount said. “Some of these places are doing particle board on top of particle board, and you can pretty much just end up with junk.”
Blount said that although there are minimal health and safety requirements for housing, it tends to be difficult to actually enforce them with some landlords.
“There is a whole set of standards, but there is no enforcement unless the tenant engages adversarial enforcement,” Blount said. “I’m afraid they’re just ‘SOL’ until they bring in code or the landlord feels like responding.”
The Alligator was unable to reach The Collier Companies or College Park for comment.