Tenants losing apartments in Horizon West

Cortland Independence is undergoing renovations, leaving many residents scrambling to find new homes in the rocketing rent market.

Photo by Annabelle Sikes
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Residents at Cortland Independence in Horizon West are voicing worries regarding recently announced renovations at the apartment complex.

The concern was first raised by a current resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, who posted in one of the Independence community Facebook groups on May 6 about her experience.

“I was debating about saying anything publicly against Cortland Independence,” she wrote. “However … I think it’s important for people to see what kind of apartment complex they truly are. The leasing office throws a letter on the ground and notifies me and my elderly mother that they are not renewing my lease because they are undergoing renovations. No notice … no other units to move into … no help with moving expenses … too bad … so sad.”


Cortland bought the 379-unit complex, previously known as Falcon Square, in December 2021. 

According to Orange County records, the property was purchased for $116.8 million. Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., a real-estate company, brokered the sale on behalf of the seller, Venterra Realty.

Lena Close, also a current resident at the complex, said she was signed previously with Falcon Square, but her lease is set to end Aug. 6. 

After hearing what was happening in the community from the Facebook post, she began to worry having not received her renewal. She said she called the complex last week and was told the community had not made a decision on her apartment. 

“They told me that I might know by sometime in June,” Close said. “I’ve been here since January 2020, and I’ve always received my renewal four months in advance because they required a 90-day notice.”

Close said she is planning to move out at the end of June, because she feels like she doesn’t have another option. 

“I have something available at the end of June as a precaution, because I can’t afford to wait till the last minute, because my kids are in the schools nearby,” she said. “I’m pretty sure they will consider me breaking my lease or something along those lines. They moved my neighbor down to a one-bedroom last year, never renovated that apartment, but moved someone in one month later but they are paying the higher price.”

Close said her current apartment is on the lower end of the rent prices offered at the complex.  

On Wednesday, May 17, Close said she came home to a termination notice on her door. 

“Pursuant to Section 3 of the Lease, Avenue of Groves FL Partners, LLC d/b/a Cortland Independence HEREBY GIVES YOU NOTICE that your Apartment Lease Contract (“Lease”) will not be renewed and your tenancy for the Unit is terminated as of Aug. 6, 2023, pursuant to Section 3 of the Lease,” the notice reads. “This letter will also serve as a Notice of Recession of the renewal offer previously sent, if any, as it is hereby withdrawn.”

“They want notice but can’t give us notice,” Close said. 

The author of the original Facebook post said she has been a tenant at the complex for more than two years. She said she was given her lease renewal which included an increase of $400. 

Two days later, she said she received a rescission of the lease agreement and was told the complex was not renewing her lease. When she called the front office, she said she was told the decision was made by corporate. 

“They told me they’ve had this in the works for over a year,” she said. “Well, if I would have known over a year ago they weren’t going to renew my lease, I would’ve been able to prepare for that. Now, I have 60 days to go ahead and move out of there, and they’re saying that I could go to another Cortland complex, but I would still have to pay all my bills and then pay everything and then possibly get it reimbursed. I would still have to pay all that money up front.”


Cortland issued a prepared statement to the Observer Thursday, May 18.

“Cortland Independence is undergoing an exciting and full renovation as announced to residents when the community was purchased in 2021,” the statement reads. “Unfortunately, as is standard practice in the apartment industry, extensive work cannot be completed while an apartment is occupied. We would love for our residents to stay in the Cortland family, so as the end of their lease approaches, we are offering residents the option to transfer to a nearby Cortland community.”

However, the notices from the complex do not include the information for help to transfer to a nearby community. The closest communities to Horizon West are in Winter Park and Celebration. 

Jennie Whitney, who lived in the complex previously, said if she were still living at the complex, she would be upset about the way the renovations are being handled. 

“I would be raising heck,” she said. “I can’t get over that they have available units but won’t allow renewals in them. I know it’s about the money. A renewal will typically be less than new rates, so a new person coming in will get the company more money.”

Cortland officials had not responded to repeated attempts seeking additional comment by press time Tuesday, May 23.



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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