House Ruining House - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

House Ruining House

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Townhouse renter Stephanie Switzer Townhouse renter Stephanie Switzer

If you live in South Florida, you may have had a house in foreclosure in your neighborhood. Maybe it was run down, but imagine if you shared a wall with that foreclosure; its roof was leaking, water was pouring into your home, and no one would do anything. It's why one South Florida family called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

WSVN -- Sometimes things seem to work out perfectly. Stephanie and her family needed a place to live. Her husband's parents had a townhouse for rent. Bingo!

Stephanie Switzer: "So we told them, 'We'll take it. We'll pay rent and we'll come here. We'll help you fix it up, because it's really outdated.'"

Everything was working out just as planned. Then the townhouse next door went into foreclosure. The roof started falling apart, and the cracks in their plan appeared.

Stephanie Switzer: "It looks like a war zone inside. It looks like a jungle. It's full of, I don't know if it's mold, it's grass, it's weeds, it's trees. The doors are kicked in; it looks gutted inside."

Since the townhouses share a common wall, what happened in this home affected Stephanie's family's home.

Stephanie Switzer: "It's taken a toll on our property, because we are getting flooding. It's coming from the floor, all this. The minute I clean it up, more water comes right through, and it's from here all the way to that wall, but more or less in this corner."

When the walls get wet, mold grows.

Stephanie Switzer: "And I have two kids that, regardless of the color of the mold, I'm scared of mold."

Stephanie's father-in-law put a blue tarp on the run down townhouse. When that didn't work, he complained to the association. They said they couldn't do anything. We contacted the bank that is foreclosing on the property. They said they don't own the property, they just hold the mortgage.

Miami-Dade County then cited the property, giving the owners until October 23rd to pull permits to fix things up. When that deadline passed, they gave them until March 5th to pull permits to repair it.

Stephanie Switzer: "I'm scared that wall is going to come tumbling down."

Frustrating beyond belief for Stephanie as their townhouse continues to deteriorate.

Stephanie Switzer: "It's just to the point, for two years it's been going downhill and the property has been getting way worse."

The county, of course, is trying to be fair to the owners of this house, but with the owners gone, the bank convinced they aren't responsible, it's unfair to Stephanie's family.

Stephanie Switzer: "There is nothing else I can do but sit back and see if they fix it, or actually move out and that's it."

Well, Howard, this has been going on for almost a year. Is there a way for Stephanie and her family to get it fixed, immediately?

Howard Finkelstein: "To be blunt, no. There are laws to prevent what Stephanie is going through, but the laws are not effective and don't work. And when you have a property that is in foreclosure, a murky legal situation gets even muddier. There is no quick, simple solution to a problem caused by a foreclosure property."

We called Miami-Dade County. They told us that their hands were tied, that have done everything that they can legally to make the owners of the damaged townhouse fix it up. To try to get them to move quicker, they're fining them daily. It's now up to $11,825.

We also spoke to the attorney for Chase, the bank that holds the mortgage on the property. He told me the bank had hired him to try to get this situation cleared up to help Stephanie's family.

Last week, the attorney said that a new investor had agreed to buy the property and fix it up. But on Monday, that investor realized how much it would cost to fix it up and pay the county fines, and backed out of the deal.

For the bank, the next step is to foreclose on March 19th and take possession of the property.

Stephanie Switzer: "Basically, the house is falling apart; it's causing damage to ours."

It's all too much for Stephanie. She just gave up, and took her family and left.

Stephanie Switzer: "Water started gushing out from the bottom, so we moved out the very next day to my mother-in-law's."

Stephanie had to move out, and without a renter in the property, her in-laws can't pay the mortgage, so now they're in a bind. If this is happening to you, try to get in touch with the bank holding the mortgage. Hopefully it won't be as complicated as this, and they will secure the property, because the more damage it gets, the more money the bank loses. As Howard said, the laws in this case don't work.

Your bright, sunny life sprung a leak? Need someone to patch things up? That's fine with us, and free.

With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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