Monday, June 4, 2007
Help Me Howard: Deposit Delimma
If you live in South Florida, if you are going to college and If you have a part-time job, odds are you need a full-time roommate.
WSVN -- Valerie Sanchez: "I have roommates because it helps out financially. Honestly, I wouldn't be able to live on my own the way Miami costs."
In Valerie's case she had three young roommates, all wanting to share this four-bedroom townhouse.
Valerie Sanchez: "So she charged us an extra $900 because we were four young girls, so our security deposit ended up being $2750."
They paid the $2750 to move and got a rude greeting.
Valerie Sanchez: "The day we moved in, we knew we were in for it because, when we moved in, she literally had the place like a pig sty."
To protect themselves, they were smart and took a lot of pictures.
Valerie Sanchez: "The walls were disgusting and filthy and had handprints everywhere."
Handprints on some walls and a hole in this one, on and on.
Valerie Sanchez: "It was not painted, and the carpet was not replaced."
But since they had signed the lease, they only had one option: get right to work.
Valerie Sanchez: "We were literally on our hands and knees, with gloves on, cleaning the place out with Clorox."
After they cleaned up, the trouble kept popping up, like the stove with broken burners and an oven without a handle.
Finally a year passed, their lease expired, and they moved out.
Valerie Sanchez: "We left the place really clean compared to how she left the place."
But instead of getting their $2750 security deposit back, a month and a half later, they got more bad news when the landlord decided to keep over $1800 of their deposit to repaint the place, replace the carpet and put a new stove.
Valerie Sanchez: "We have pictures to prove the stove was already broken when we moved in, but she is still charging us for a new stove."
When they complained, the landlord did agree to send them $900 from the $2750 but:
Valerie Sanchez: "So when we went to cash the check, the check bounced."
Now they are out of the $2750 the young girls need and can't get, but what are they entitled to? To find out, let's talk to that guy who spent a long time in law school.
Howard Finkelstein: "First of all, writing a worthless check is a crime. Also, the landlord violated Florida law when she did not notify the girls within 30 days in writing that she would not be returning their money, therefore she has to give it all back, so the girls need to go to court."
Valerie filed suit and got a court date, but the Sheriff's office couldn't find the landlord to notify her. Valerie thought that meant there was no hearing, but there was.
Valerie Sanchez: "Her lawyer showed up to court, and we didn't because we assumed we didn't have to. The case was closed."
She was devastated, assuming the $2750 was gone. Howard says maybe not.
Howard Finkelstein: "Court rules say if you miss a hearing for what the law calls excusable neglect, you can ask the judge to reopen the case, so the girls can continue to try and get their money back."
Valerie did and got this letter from a Miami-Dade judge giving her a hearing to explain why she missed the court date. If he accepts her explanation, the case begins again.
Finally, a break for the girls who are still hoping for justice.
Valerie Sanchez: "She kept all of our money, and it's not right."
Patrick Fraser: The landlord wouldn't talk to us, her first attorney told me after he explained the law to her she didn't like it and got a new attorney. He told me the landlord notified the girls she was closing her account and offered to write them a new check, but they didn't want $900, they wanted the entire $2750. We will be in court for that hearing on Wednesday to see if the girls get a shot at getting their money back.
Renting a problem so long you feel like you own it? Want to deposit it in someone else's lap? Contact us. Just call us the landlords of the law, whatever that means.
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