Monday, September 18, 2006
Help Me Howard: Soldier and Lease
When Uncle Sam calls soldiers and says it's time to report for duty, it can be a hectic time. And the last thing they need is a landlord telling them, "You break the lease, and I will take your money." Is that legal -- to punish a soldier for breaking a lease? To find out, one marine called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Freddie says when he was in Iraq there were two kinds of weather: really hot and really cold.
Patrick Fraser: "How long were you in Fallujah?"
Freddie Stewart: "We were there for like two months."
The former marine says the battles can be a little scary, but he enjoyed it because life was never dull.
After his tour of duty in Iraq, Freddie left the marines but, after a few months in South Florida, decided civilian life was boring.
Freddie Stewart: "There's nothing out here that I really like. I tried school, and it wasn't really for me."
Freddie re-enlisted and, in early September, got his marching orders.
Freddie Stewart: "That I needed to report to Camp Lejune, North Carolina on the 22nd of October."
Freddie and Kim started getting ready. First they called their landlord to give him 30 days notice and let him know they needed to break their apartment lease. His reaction was not pleasant.
Freddie Stewart: "I will be losing my security deposit and my last month's rent."
Not only did the landlord plan to keep their $1,700, he wanted them to pay even more to him.
Freddie Stewart: "And he told me, if I didn't want to pay for one more month in October that I had to be out by the first of the month."
Patrick Fraser: "So he tried to evict you?"
Freddie Stewart: "Yes."
Patrick Fraser: "Does it surprise you that he would tell a soldier, a marine, 'I'm going to try to take your money?'"
Freddie Stewart: "Yeah."
Freddie says when he spoke, the landlord didn't see a soldier going off to protect all of us; he saw a good paying tenant vacating an apartment.
Freddie Stewart: "He doesn't care. All he cares about is his money."
So can he keep Freddie's money? Can the landlord punish a marine called up for duty for breaking a lease?
Mr. Finkelstein, your turn.
Howard Finkelstein: "Now, you bring some hard ones to me -- this one is easy. State law makes it clear that if someone is called up to active duty they can give 30 days written notice and get out of the lease without any penalties, and that means they get their deposits back."
When I explained the law to the landlord he had a change of heart.
He told me, "I don't want to break the law, I want to follow the law."
He then said, 'If Freddie leaves the apartment in the same condition, I don't see any problem getting his money back.'
Howard says if the landlord tries to hold Freddie's money, he may get a phone call.
Howard Finkelstein: "The military does not like to see its men and women taken advantage of. They have lawyers on every base to assist them and give free legal advice, write letters, even negotiate to help solve the problem."
That's good news for Freddie, who won't be an infantryman this time around. Instead, he will be trained for military intelligence.
Patrick Fraser: "Will this tour be safer than the first tour?"
Freddie Stewart: "Should be, yes, yes."
Patrick Fraser: "Nobody shooting at you?"
Freddie Stewart: "Not this time, not with this job. I will be behind a desk no matter where I go."
Patrick Fraser: "And Freddie has good reason to stay off the battlefield and behind a desk. Kim is pregnant. Odds are they will still be at Camp Lejune when their first child is born.
Battling a problem? Don't get up in arms. Enlist us to help. We don't compare to our nation's military intelligence. Matter of fact, no one has ever used the word intelligence when describing us, but we get things done.
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