Renters find few options after Hurricane Irma

Emily Moll and her boyfriend watched a televised New York Giants game on Sunday with no idea they were about to lose their Apopka-area rental home, possessions and hopes to purchase in the next year. Then Hurricane Irma struck Central Florida. “I know it was only a rental,” said Moll, 24. “But we were building our life, building our things. We were planning on buying a house.” The plight of Orlando-area renters sheds light on a new set of post-Irma realities — rent payments on uninhabitable homes and apartments, challenges getting rent deposits refunded and few housing options in a tight rental market. "It's kind of like being stuck in the mud right now," said Jay Myers, owner of Orlando Realty and Property Management. "You just have to work your way through it." Of the 600 Central Florida rental properties his group manages, only about 1.5 percent were vacant leading up to Irma. That supply has tightened further with damaged properties. Also, residents of Naples and other harder-hit areas have started looking for rentals in Orlando, Myers said. The advantage goes to tenants with pay stubs and tax returns in hand but, even then, the process has slowed, he added. Moll and Ryan Rose, 26, had to suddenly leave their home as Irma swept through the Orlando area early Sept. 11. An old pecan tree crushed the house Rose had rented for three years. Moll said it sounded like a car crashing into the house, breaking glass as it fell into the living room.

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