Monday, January 29, 2007
Help Me Howard: Rats
All right, here is a thought for you as you sit in your warm comfortable apartment: As you watch TV, a rat comes strolling across the floor. After you jump up or scream or grab a stick and beat it to death, what do you do next to make sure it doesn't happen again? Or can you do anything at all if you live in a rat-infested building? For the answer, let's call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you walked into your apartment and saw a rat strolling through the house, maybe crawling out of the kitchen sink -- or imagine one sliding behind your coffee pot -- odds are you would not say, "Wow, look! I have wildlife."
Enjoli Morris: "It's scary, it's nasty."
Enjoli didn't exactly see the rodent in her apartment until they met.
Enjoli Morris: "I opened the door, it shot out across my foot, and it bit me."
Now, it happened so quickly that she is not certain if the varmint bit her or scratched her -- she just knows that it left a bleeding mark.
Enjoli Morris: "Either way it's still nasty. A rat bit me or scratched me or touched me in my own home."
And the rat or mouse -- I don't have a degree in "rodentry" -- did not get away with it.
Enjoli Morris: "It ran into another closet in the bathroom. It was a rat. I killed that rat."
Now, realizing that rats and mice can multiply quicker than a calculator can, Enjoli bought some traps.
Enjoli Morris: "And laid down the glue traps. As soon as I laid down that glue trap in the kitchen another one jumped out."
Two dead in about two minutes.
Then she grabbed her son and went to the hospital.
Enjoli Morris: "I told them I got bit by a rat. Then they gave me a tetanus shot and put me on antibiotics."
Enjoli has lived in this North Miami apartment for just a couple of months. She says she saw a rat outside but never expected anything inside, so she complained to her landlord.
Enjoli Morris: "I told her I have rats, she didn't seem to buy it, and she didn't jump up. She was like, 'Well what do you want me to do?'"
Enjoli told her she wanted to move to a different apartment where rats did not reside. The landlord said, "We only have one unit available, and you have to pay $300 to transfer."
Enjoli Morris: "She said, 'Yeah, you have to pay the transfer fee, and you have to hurry up. There is somebody else that wants the apartment.'"
Apparently there is a big demand to get that apartment, but Enjoli was not going to pay $300 to join that rat race. Instead, she now wants to be let out of her lease and leave because she can't stand to be in here.
Enjoli Morris: "I come here, I get my clothes, I go to my mom's house because I don't want to see any more [rats]. I don't want to see anything else."
But since she has a lease, does she have to share a place with a few rats and mice? Let's bring in that fellow from Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "A tenant does not have to live with vermin, whether it's rats, mice or roaches. But you just can't break your lease and leave. You have to send a letter giving them seven days to fix the problem. If they don't, you can break your lease and get your deposit back."
After I called the landlord, he sent an exterminator the next day.
He also told me they looked at the apartment and did not see any rats or mice.
And the landlord added, 99 percent of his tenants know that if they have roaches or rats, they are to call the exterminator themselves.
Enjoli was part of the one percent that didn't know.
And Howard says there is one more thing every renter needs to know...
Howard Finkelstein: "If you have problems, don't fight the battle alone. If it's a serious problem, like no hot water or vermin contact, contact your City or County Code Enforcement or the health department, and let them put pressure on the landlord as well."
In fact, Enjoli called the City of North Miami and they did check out her building. She says she will not hesitate to complain, for her son's sake.
Enjoli Morris: "I don't want him seeing anything like that. I mean he is only a year, but I don't want him seeing anything like that."
Patrick Fraser: "If you have to send your landlord a seven-day letter, make sure you send it certified mail. And if the problem isn't corrected within seven days, legally you can move out and get your security deposit back, and if they correct the problem you have to honor the lease."
Oh, rats ... A problem's infested your home? Don't let them trap you. Contact us -- between a reporter and a lawyer, we know all about vermin.
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