VALRICO, Fla. (WFLA) — In the destruction of Hurricane Ian, many homes in Valrico saw tremendous damage, including trees through roofs. But the former tenants of one rental property say they saw it coming.
“I said, ‘Honestly, I don’t feel safe being in another one of your houses,'” Luke Ferrata said.
Ferrata, his wife and his daughter are living with various family and friends after an old oak tree that stood in their front yard for years toppled during the hurricane, breaking through their roof with one branch and their boat with another.
Five days before Ian hit, Ferrata said he submitted a maintenance request to his landlord, Streetlane Homes. He wanted that oak tree trimmed and balanced. According to Ferrata, nothing happened, so he submitted another request two days before the storm.
“No one showed up Monday,” Ferrata explained. “Called Monday, they said, ‘No worry, we’re going to escalate it. It’s an emergency.’ Tuesday, no one showed up on Tuesday. Then, Wednesday night, there’s a tree in the living room.”
The Ferratas were so concerned about the tree falling in the night that they moved their mattress from the main bedroom to a front room just to be safe.
Ferrata said Streetlane initially wanted him and his family to move back into the damaged home after the tree was off and the roof was tarped.
“Their idea was that the damage wasn’t sufficient enough for us to leave the home or make the home inhabitable,” Ferrata said. “Even though I’d provided plenty of pictures with the water damage and the roof caving in.”
It wasn’t until Oct. 3, five days after the hurricane, that Streetlane had people come and removed the tree and tarp the house — a remedy Ferrata said he helped with.
“To me, it’s the concern of, you care more about the house and fixing the house than you do the resident who is in the house and pays those bills,” Ferrata said. “That doesn’t rub the right way.”
Ferrata said he asked Streetlane to terminate his lease recently, but has yet to hear back. He believes the company is dragging its feet.
“God forbid that tree crashed through the roof and killed all five of us,” Ferrata said. “No one probably would have found out until next week when the rent check is due and it doesn’t get paid and they’re here to evict us.”
8 On Your Side reached out to Streetlane Homes for a comment, but have not heard back. Their voicemail says they have been significantly impacted by Hurricane Ian and can’t take any phone calls, and have hired help to manage their inbox.
Meanwhile, the Ferratas are navigating murky waters, trying to figure out what to do next. The ancient oak now sits chopped up into pieces, covering part of their front yard and sidewalk. The stump is all that remains.