Monday, September 9, 2013
Help Me Howard: Not in the Lease
We have all heard the line, "a deal is a deal ... till it's not," but is that true? One South Florida man signed a lease, and now his landlord wants to change it after he moved in. Can they do that? It's why we have Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Gustavo Caracas: "I like the place. It's very tranquil, very easy. The neighbors are very quiet."
It's a nice two-bedroom apartment overlooking a lake, and the clincher for moving in, a washer and dryer.
Gustavo Caracas: "This was also an agreement [with the] prior manager. 'Yeah, go ahead, we will lease it at that price with the washer and dryer.'"
A nice washer and dryer, a nice place to live for $982 a month, and of course, since this is a Help Me Howard story, the next word is "until."
Gustavo Caracas: "Until we got a nice notice."
Three months after Gus moved in, the complex got a new manager
who said Gus had not been paying the $50 a month extra for his washer and dryer. Gus replied.
Gustavo Caracas: "You tell me where on the lease it says that I have to pay an additional $50 dollars for washer and dryer. It's not on the lease."
The lease Gus signed is 31 pages long, and includes 12 addendums to deal with everything from bed bugs and mold to TV antennas, alarms and smokers. But Gus says nowhere in the lengthy document that he signed and the owner's representative signed does it say he has to pay $50 a month extra for the washer and dryer.
Gustavo Caracas: "If you show proof we will be more than happy to pay it. Somebody made a mistake. I am not going to pay for it. I am not going to pay for somebody's mistake."
When Gus told the manager he wasn't paying extra, he says they left him a message on his door.
Gustavo Caracas: "A 3-day notice: Either you pay or we will evict you."
The complex didn't carry out the threat, and since the lease runs till April and he likes the place, he does not want to leave.
Gustavo Caracas: "It's a very nice area to live. They are not making it nice to live in."
Of course Gus can afford the $50 dollars, but in his eyes, he gave his word, they gave their word, and a deal is a deal.
Gustavo Caracas: "There is a lease, there is a contract. Honor it. That's all I am asking, honor the contract."
Well, Howard, Gus signed a lease. You read it. Can they now make him pay more?
Howard Finkelstein: "No. The 31-page document says nothing about paying extra for the washer and dryer that are in the apartment. The lease is a contract, and the landlord can't change it in the middle of the agreement."
I spoke to a representative at the apartment complex about the fee for the washer and dryer. She told me they use an addendum for that and the old staff didn't make Gus sign that addendum. She said Gus would have to pay it. When I told her Howard said he didn't have to, she said I would need to talk to their lawyer. I called him, but he did not return my calls.
One more question, Howard: Does Gus have to worry about the threat to evict him?
Howard Finkelstein: "Again, the answer is no. They could try, but if they take it to court, as long as Gus continues to pay his rent on time, a judge won't let them break the lease and evict. It's that simple."
Gus won this battle. Now his concern: Will the complex try to make his life uncomfortable?
Gustavo Caracas: "My sense of security, my sense of security is out the door right now. It's in limbo."
Well, if they mess with Gus, then we have another story. So why would a complex try to charge a fee that Howard says clearly they cannot charge?
Because most people don't know the law, and usually the landlord gets away with it. Gus knew better, and also knew to give us a call.
Contracted a problem you wanna break away from? Need a new lease on life? Contact us. We aren't into washing and drying, but we can clean up your legal troubles. With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.
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