Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Help Me Howard: Landlord vs. Tenant
Can a renter live in a place for months, up to six months, and never pay a dime? That's what some renters say they can get away with, which is why one landlord called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser to stop it.
WSVN -- The only thing worse than being a renter who can't pay the rent is being a landlord who can't collect the rent from the renter.
Nerva Garcia, Frustrated Landlord: "It's a headache, it's a headache, it's a headache."
In 2003, Nerva Garcia and her husband bought this small apartment building to rent out and make money.
Nerva Garcia, Frustrated Landlord: "And then, the real estate went down, and so did my marriage."
In the divorce, Nerva kept the building. After having to deal with one renter, Nerva's ex may turn out to be the winner here.
Nerva Garcia, Frustrated Landlord: "She told me she needed to move in right away."
In June, Nerva rented one of her four units to a grandmother, a mother and her two little kids. The renter paid the rent late in July and only paid part of the rent in August. Then came September.
Nerva Garcia, Frustrated Landlord: "I came to see her, and the grandmother said, 'No, she is not here.'"
Nerva kept coming by to get her rent money. Her renter was never home, but she did send word to Nerva.
Nerva Garcia, Frustrated Landlord: "She told her I was getting on her nerves."
Finally, Nerva got in touch with her renter.
Nerva Garcia, Frustrated Landlord: "And that's when she says, 'Well, you tell her now, I'm not going to pay her nothing, because I have done this before, and the law is always on my side because I have two kids. The courts will see that.'"
The renter won't pay, convinced the courts and judges will let her and her two kids stay for free for months.
Nerva Garcia, Frustrated Landlord: "How can she say that she is going to live here for six months for free, and I have to cover that expense?"
Nerva can't afford an attorney to help evict this renter, so while the woman and kids live for free, Nerva has to pay a mortgage and property taxes.
Nerva Garcia, Frustrated Landlord: "Very frustrating, because I'm to the point that I'm going to say, you know, drop everything and let the bank take over. I don't have the money to cover everything."
Well Howard, the renter is convinced she can live here for free for six months before a judge will evict her. So what can a landlord do?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "A tenant can work the system and stall an eviction for a couple of months, but six months is not common. The key for a landlord is to file a notice as soon as the rent is late, giving the tenant three days to pay. If they don't pay, the landlord should go to court immediately and sue for eviction and back rent."
When we went by, the renter wasn't around. The grandmother told us they were looking for a place but didn't want to leave because of the children.
Grandmother, in Spanish: "For the kids, I feel for them, because they can be anywhere."
Nerva then went to court and started the eviction process. Two months after her tenants quit paying, one month after Nerva went to court, they were evicted and left owing Nerva $2,975.
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "Legally, the renter has to pay the money, but in reality, if they had it, they would have paid the rent and not been in this mess. Bottom line: Whether it's an unhappy renter or unhappy landlord, it's best to get it to court quickly and get it resolved as soon as possible."
Nerva Garcia, Frustrated Landlord: "Oh yes, very, very, happy. I'm glad that everything is over with."
Nerva's renter never paid the money she owed, but Nerva did get one thing: A lesson for the future.
Nerva Garcia, Frustrated Landlord: "Make sure you check the background of all the tenants of all the ones who want to rent your place. Don't be shy to ask any questions, because otherwise this is what will happen. You wont get paid."
Patrick Fraser: "There are good landlords, bad landlords, good renters, bad renters. By the way, Nerva's renter kept telling people she had two kids so a judge would not evict her for six months. Not true. Legally, having children in an apartment should not stall an eviction, and in this case, did not."
Own a problem you want evicted? You don't need to court us. Just call us. Howard won't have to rent a law book. He has knowledge lodged in his head, or so he tells me.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com