Monday, September 4, 2006
Help Me Howard: Rent
Do you pay rent in South Florida? Odds are you may soon get a notice that your landlord is raising the rates. It's happening all over South Florida and it has many people asking -- raising the roof -- asking the question: Can they raise the rent? Here is Patrick Fraser with tonight's Help Me Howard.
WSVN -- When she went looking for an apartment, Tandra knew what she wanted.
Tandra Hudson-McClam: "Quiet and clean."
And when she walked into this place in Pompano Beach, she knew it was perfect.
Tandra Hudson-McClam: "It's safe. I'm not afraid when my husband is not home. Safe for my daughter to go outside and play."
At $925 a month the price was right too.
But, after a few months, that all changed when Tandra got this notice:
Tandra Hudson-McClam: "'Due to increasing taxes and other carrying charges we must advise you of a rent increase.'"
The apartment complex had been sold. Tandra was under a month-to-month lease, and when the new owners came in they said, "We are raising your rent."
Tandra Hudson-McClam: "'Please be advised that your new rent amount, as of Sept. 1, will be $1,300."
That $375 a month increase was a big hit for the renters.
Tandra Hudson-McClam: "We were angry. My husband and I were angry. Because it was like as of Sept. 1 your rent will increase to $1300."
Tandra hadn't even met the new owners.
And she couldn't believe they would just increase their rent with only 11 days notice.
Tandra Hudson-McClam: "We're not on the Intracoastal or a gated community here. I mean, it's safe, and it's nice, but $1300 is a bit much."
On top of that, the new owners told the renters that if they decided to move out they would have to get their security deposit from the old owner.
Tandra Hudson-McClam: "We have to sue the old owner. Because he never made some kind of transfer with the deposit money and everything."
So, with just 11 days to move, Tandra called Help Me Howard.
Tandra Hudson-McClam: "It kind of ticked me off when we got the letter so close to Sept 1, and I really didn't know if they were allowed to do that or not."
Howard, it's a question we are getting a lot: Can a landlord suddenly raise the rent as much as they want?
Howard Finkelstein: "In Florida there is no rent control. If you have a lease the landlord can't raise the rent until the lease expires -- then they can raise it as much as they want. If you don’t have a lease, and you're paying month-to-month your landlord can also raise the rent as much as they want, provided they give you 15 days notice. In this case, they only gave 11 days notice, so the earliest they raise the rent is Oct. 1."
Howard says, if Tandra doesn't want to pay, she needs to give the landlord 15 days notice that she is moving out.
As for her security deposit, Tandra was apparently misled.
When Help Me Howard called the prior owner of the building he told us he gave the new owners $25,000 to cover the security deposits.
Howard says that means its up to the new owners to return the money to Tandra when she moves out.
Howard Finkelstein: "Under Florida law, a landlord has to return your security deposit within 15 days after you move out unless they notify you in writing that they are charging you for damages. And to protect yourself when you move out, take pictures of the place on the last day and get the landlord to sign off that everything is in good shape."
Tandra says that's good news and has started looking for a new place to live to avoid the stiff rent increase.
Tandra Hudson-McClam: "We've been checking into apartments and looking around and stuff. We have no other choice than to get out if they are going to be $1300."
Patrick Fraser: "Seems like 15 days is the magic number in those situations. And, by the way, if you are wondering why rents are skyrocketing, it's because the cost of properties are.
"For example, the old owner in Tandra's building paid about $2.5 million for the property. He sold it for $5.5 million. Meaning the new owner’s mortgage doubled, along with skyrocketing property taxes and insurance. The property owners get hit and pass it on to the renters."
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