Monday, April 9, 2012
Help Me Howard: Squatters
Imagine this. You own a house, you come by and find apparent squatters people are living there. Even worse, you find out you have to go to court to get them out, meaning they can live there for free for months. What can you do? Use the South Florida solution, contact Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Like they say, Tony Piedra makes his money the old fashioned way, he earns it.
Tony Piedra: "I buy houses and am an investor fix em up and sell em."
But when we came with Tony to check out the property he had in Miami Gardens, this is what we saw...
Tony Piedra: "Do you live here?"
Woman: "No no here."
Tony Piedra: "So they literally had to burglarize my property through the back unit through the back door, and come into my house,"
The unwanted residents had apparently broken into the house and moved in their furniture the day before Tony was selling it.
The people in the house brought their friendly dog, but they either tried to hide from us, ignored us or tried to see how well the camera was made.
When Tony found them in his house he called the police and got his second shock.
Tony Piedra: "Me as the owner of the property I have no rights to take possession of my property."
The woman who told police she was Maite Betancourt said she had leased the property from a man named Rafael that she met at a grocery story. Tony had never heard of the guy and called the lease phony. The woman's response...
Tony Piedra: "She literally told the police officers in my face if I want her out of the property I have to give her $3,000."
The next day, the tenants came and went as if they had no worries in the world. Stopping to let us know they thought we were number one.
Tony Piedra: "I am so frustrated."
Tony could only watch from the outside as his investment property was damaged. His fence was broken after FPL turned off the power. Someone damaged the box when they rigged the box to turn the power back on. Clearly they had done this before.
"Somebody watching this would say if that was my house I would throw them out."
Tony Piedra: "You cant?"
Tony Piedra: "Its against the law you have to do an eviction."
To evict someone can take three months. Squatters see a For Sale sign, an empty house and know its a chance to live for a few months for free. Tony says one of the women told him that.
Tony Piedra: "I know what I am supposed to be able to do and you have to take me to court."
Police see the so called lease a person draws up and walk away they dont have the time to investigate to prove its a burglary, and leave it up to the courts to resolve months down the road.
Tony Piedra: "They have all the rights in the world even though they broke into my house."
Well Howard, the women who moved in the day before the sale claim they have a lease. The owner says its a phony lease and they are squatters who broke into his property Legally, what can a property owner do?
Howard Finkelstein: "If the people in the house did pay a crook to rent it, its a civil matter and the police have to let the courts sort it out. However if Tony can convince the police the lease is a fraud and that the people are squatters who broke into house, the police can order them to leave and if they dont arrest them."
We then contacted Miami Gardens Police who were able to investigate Tony's situation some more. They concluded Tony was the victim of squatters who broke into his property.
A Miami Gardens officer tried to be nice telling Maite Bettancourt, Tony would give her five days to move her stuff out. She responded with words they dont use in Sunday school, so the police and Tony told her she had to be out the next day.
The accused squatter actually complained to Tony that he was not being fair and should have given her a few more days to move out, but with Miami Gardens Police watching, she packed up her furniture and took off.
Tony had his house back.
Tony Piedra: "Relieved. I want to thank you guys for everything you did. Also Captain Suarez and the city of Miami Gardens who helped us. Honestly, I dont think we would have been in this position today if you guys wouldn't have stepped in."
Patrick Fraser: "Now we are hearing more and more often of squatters trying to take over empty houses across the county. There are even websites explaining to people how to do it. In most cases police find the squatters have phony documents to try to show they belong in the house."
A problem seem to come out of nowhere and plopped own in your lap? Ready to move it out? Let us take possession and try to evict it from your life.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com