Monday, May 5, 2008
Help Me Howard: Renter Wants Out
Problem landlords are nothing new. From raising the rent to failing to fix things, the list goes on, but one man says ridicule from his landlord is so upsetting he wants to break the lease and move but can he? Here's tonight's Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you think your life is tough, give Paul Gausman a call.
Paul Gausman: "Before I lost my memory, I suffered with depression."
A few months ago he had a stroke, slipped into a coma for two months and when he came out of it he had trouble walking and talking.
Paul Gausman: "It seems like nobody will listen to me because of my speech, i'm invisible."
Because of his speech impediment, people make fun of him. The latest person, his landlord.
Paul Gausman: "I overheard, out my window, him telling someone that I was crazy, it made me mad."
Paul was so depressed, so despondent, in march he tried to kill himself. The police called Howard to talk Paul off the roof.
Howard: "I got up there, and I yelled, 'Paul, Paul, it's Howard, do you remember me?'"
Howard convinced Paul not to kill himself, and when Howard started talking to him, discovered the reason he wanted to end his life: a miserable home, made worse by a landlord who constantly ridiculed him.
Paul Gausman: "But he won't let me move, and he's holding me financially hostage because I can't move without my money."
But can you break a lease and move out if your landlord is just verbally tormenting you, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "Under certain circumstances, if the verbal torment deprives you of the ability to enjoy the peace and quiet of your apartment, that is a breach of contract, and you can get out of the lease. The problem? If the landlord won't agree, then you have to go to court, and that will cost you time and money, but there are other options. You have to keep digging to uncover them."
We tried to talk to Paul's landlord. He wasn't interested in talking to us. Then, during our normal research, we discovered that Paul was living in a home zoned for one family that had been divided into a multi-unit dwelling for several people. In other words, the home was in violation of city code. We then asked legal aid to step in.
They wrote this letter to the landlord letting him know they considered the lease in violation because of the illegal conversion. We also notified Fort Lauderdale's Code Enforcement Office of the violation. The landlord was cited and ordered to return it to a single family home.
That meant Paul's lease was broken and he could leave. The landlord returned $650, and Legal Aid found him a new place to rent.
David Mankin: "We're moving him into his new apartment."
Auction 84 in Davie donated furniture, Hollywood Faith Christian church stocked Paul's new apartment with some food. Everybody helped Paul out and gave him something he has not had in awhile.
Paul Gausman: "This is the first time I smiled in a long time."
Patrick Fraser: "Paul's problems with his landlord were the hateful words but contacting the city about the violations got him out of his lease. If your problems are with an apartment or house, in other words, if you are having trouble getting your landlord to bring your place up to code, you too can contact the city or county about the violations. But give the landlord a chance before you turn them in. We do stories on a few less than stellar landlords, most are very good and do the best they can."
Verbal barrage left you down in the dumps? Need someone to give you a legal lift? Contact us, we can't break a lease, but we can break open a law book.
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