Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Help Me Howard: Venezuelan House
The Hugo Chavez we all hear about is a good friend of Fidel Castro. A man who is not fond of the United States and, one more thing, a property owner in South Florida. That's right, but not a good property owner, which is why some neighbors are calling Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- You may have heard of Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, a man who is not a big fan of the United States of America, or President Bush.
Chavez is real good at telling other people how to run their country. Kind of strange coming from a guy who can't even care for a single family home.
Todd Stiefel: "And now, for the last seven or eight years, it's been owned by the Venezuelan equivalent of the FDIC, so, it's actually owned by the Venezuelan government."
The Venezuelan government, a.k.a. good old Hugo Rafael Chavez has come to own this pricey, picturesque place in Pinecrest.
Todd Stiefel: "This is what a maintained hedge looks like. That's what a non-maintained hedge looks like."
Pinecrest is ritzy. Chavez's place ain't even close.
Todd Stiefel: "What we have is a home that's been abandoned for eight years and is not maintained at all."
Unfortunately for Todd, the location of his home makes him an expert on the Venezuelan mess. Todd lives next door and occasionally gets visits from the four-legged residents of the house.
Todd Stiefel: "It's filled with roaches and rats. The rats come from the house, to the other neighbors' houses and hang out. They come hang out on my window sill, and you can actually see rat shadows cast up on my walls."
A rat trap appraised at a million dollars. OK looking from the outside, but inside it's a different story.
Todd Stiefel: "It's infested inside with rampant mold. The ceilings are collapsing."
Now Chavez has made it clear he thinks America stinks, but, if he came to this house, he would get a whiff of something he would not like either.
Todd Stiefel: "The house smells bad because of the mold."
Finally, since Chavez goes out of his way to irritate America, let's give him credit for the pests he is breeding in Pinecrest.
Todd and his neighbors have contacted Pinecrest village leaders. They have placed liens totaling $247,000 on the property, and had to spend taxpayer money to maintain the outside, while the socialist's government down in South America keeps vast oil money in it's coffers.
Occasionally, property taxes and homeowners association fees are paid with checks stamped with the Venezuelan government seal. But they ignore the liens and ignore the neighbors who have become fed up with the grand poo-bah down in Caracas.
Todd Stiefel: "What would I say to Hugo Chavez? I would say, 'If you could please get your bureaucrats to take care of this, it's probably just an innocent oversight, but it's an extreme frustration for the people living in this neighborhood to have to deal with it.'"
But how can a small village like Pinecrest battle a foreign country led by Hugo Chavez? Got any answers, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "Legally, this is complicated because the owner is a foreign entity. The homeowners have a right to have this property taken care of, and it's the local governments job to enforce its own laws by placing leins, which they have done. But because they are dealing with a foreign government, one that is not friendly to the U.S., a legal landmine and a logistical nightmare that is now tied up in the Third District Court of Appeals."
Pinecrest's attorney told us we have tried to foreclose on the property and take it away. The Venezuelan government has tried to block the foreclosure. Their attorney told us it's because the village has not served the correct Venezuelan government agency that owns the property. A local judge ruled against Venezuela. They are now appealing that decision, which means the house sits here, deteriorating even more by the day, and even if the village takes the property away from Chavez and his government, it won't be worth owning.
Todd Stiefel: "Most likely, the thing is going to have to be knocked down or gutted because it's pretty much unsalvageable at least from what you can see through the windows."
Patrick Fraser: "Now, you may be wondering how Hugo Chavez's country came to own a house in Pinecrest. They didn't buy it. It was owned by a Venezuelan bank that went under. It then became the property of the Venezuelan government. They took it over for seven years, they have just never taken care of it."
Solutions to a problem seem foreign to you? Need to clean them up? Contact us. We'll go from mi casa es su casa to your troubles are our troubles.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (please include your contact number when emailing)