Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Help Me Howard: Living for Free
Want to live in a house for free? It's not legal, you say. Well then, how are thousands of South Floridians staying in houses without paying rent or paying a mortgage? Let's bring in Patrick Fraser with Help Me Howard for the answer.
WSVN -- Jeremy is no saint.
Jeremy Wolski: "I took a deal to where I'm on house arrest. Two years house arrest, four years probation."
But today, Jeremy's a victim, and when he says house arrest, it sounds strange, because when he came back from the jail house to his house, it was filled.
Jeremy Wolski: "And four adults and two children."
Jeremy calls them squatters. When one saw us, he had somewhere to go. Another agrees, he is sort of an uninvited guest.
Patrick Fraser: "Do you consider yourself a squatter?"
Man: "A partial squatter. I'm not fully a squatter."
This fellow sleeping in Jeremy's house has two kids and is convinced he isn't doing anything wrong.
Man: "No, I'm not a squatter. I paid this guy."
Jeremy says, the fellow couldn't have ever paid him, because he has been in jail, that the people moved in when they heard he was arrested, and while he sat there, his house was destroyed. Turned into a pigpen. Trashed.
Jeremy Wolski: "This house is a mess. It's disgusting. It was brand new."
Patrick Fraser: "The situation is a mess."
Jeremy Wolski: "The situation is more than a mess."
Jeremy had the electricity and water turned off to try to get them to move out. Someone rigged it and turned it all back on. Jeremy called the police, who concluded that one of the squatters paid Jeremy's girlfriend rent money while he was in jail. Jeremy says, that's not true.
Patrick Fraser: "What's it like to own a home and not be in a home?"
Jeremy Wolski: "Very upsetting."
Very upset that people are living in his house for free. So Howard, is it legal?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "You cannot just move into someone's house. That is a crime, and you can be arrested. However, if the police believe that there might be some sort of rental agreement, they do not have to arrest, and you have to go to court to evict them, which can take months and cost time and money."
Now look at this beautiful home on the Miami river where the owners have been living for free.
Luis Valdeon: "They really know the system."
The two homeowners quit paying their mortgage in 2008. Instead, they spent their money in court battling to avoid foreclosure.
Luis Valdeon, Miami Dade Foreclosure List: "He has probably here about a hundred motions. Going to court, bankruptcies. Got one bankruptcy, two, three bankruptcies, four bankruptcies, one after the other."
Patrick Fraser: "And that delays it?"
Luis Valdeon: "That delays it."
In fact, when deputies showed up to evict them, the owner told them, they were filing an appeal to stop it. But the judge who has overseen this case anticipated it and ordered the deputies to reject the filing and proceed.
Patrick Fraser: "You have not been living here for free?"
Carlos De Araujo: "No, I have not. We don't live for free."
The owners told me, he had paid the mortgage and would show me the receipts. They did not. Robert then walked over to Luis Valdeon, one of the investors who bought the property, and made an offer.
Carlos De Araujo: "But please consider. I will give you the check right now for $400,000, and you can record that, and we have the check."
Robert promised to deliver the check. He did not. Howard, people in the foreclosure business say, if you know how to work the system and can stop paying your mortgage, you can live in a house for free for years. True or false?
Howard Finkelstein: "Yes, and it's not even a crime. It's happening all over South Florida, because our courts are backlogged with foreclosures, judges are overwhelmed, and some people are filing frivolous motions for the sole purpose of staying in a house for free."
They say, you can't live for free. They are wrong.
Patrick Fraser: "And while it's not right to live for free, in some cases, it's understandable. For example, let's say you have kids. You lose your job. You can't pay rent or your mortgage. Would you stall eviction to keep your kids from being tossed out on the street? Thank goodness I don't have to make that decision."
Ready to serve eviction papers on your problems? Don't delay. Deliver it to us. We won't squat on it. We move some answers out quickly.