By KAREN HENSEL
South Florida is a highly competitive rental market. Some tenants claim that landlords take advantage of their situation by not doing repairs. Karen Hensel is here with her special assignment, “Paradise Lost.”
Chara Fitzpatrick and her children moved from Los Angeles to Hollywood to be nearer to their father.
Chara found an apartment with a single room for only $1,400 per month.
Chara Fitzpatrick’s apartment leaked: “We had been looking for a place for 6 months or a year.” Get settled, search for jobs, and find things in town.
Her plans began to crumble when her ceiling collapsed due to the rains of summer.
Chara Fitzpatrick : “They told me that they would send someone to fix it. The roof was never even touched. “They just replaced the sheetrock and painted it over.”
As the rains continued, the damages increased.
Chara Fitzpatrick : “I woke up and they were crying. It was just raining water and roof debris was on them.”
Robin Er trailer leaked: “I’m sure I was asleep when it began to rain, but I thought, ‘Oh no, I am getting wet.’ ‘”
Robin Erb sees rain pouring through the window in her Davie trailer.
Robin Erb: The walls are about to collapse.
Robin requested that her landlord fix the leaks.
Robin Erb: He came and looked at it and said “I’ll have someone on it. ‘”
Robin Erb says: “Here’s where the black mold is.”
Mold has now grown on the ceiling.
Chara believes that she also has mold and her daughter is sick.
Chara Fitzpatrick said: “She began to get feverish and after two days I could not break it. “I took her to the ER.”
The family had to move into a hotel because she was suffering from pneumonia. The leaks have not been fixed by her landlord.
Chara Fitzpatrick says: “He thinks we are desperate, and we have no other option, so, we will do what we can to deal with the situation, just as we have done for all of our tenants.”
South Florida is a difficult place to find an apartment for rent.
Miami-Dade has the highest level of competition in rental markets across the United States. Broward County ranks ninth and complaints against landlords are increasing.
Alexander Johnson, tenant attorney: “In tight markets, landlords often feel there is no real incentive for them to keep tenants, when they could get new ones with higher prices.”
Alexander Johnson, a Florida-based attorney and renter advocate, says that while most Florida laws favor landlords in the majority of cases, tenants can still protect their rights.
Alexander Johnson: If there is something you want fixed, please fill out the seven-day notice, or notice of noncompliance. You don’t get any rights until you fill out this form.
Johnson suggests that you list all the problems with your unit, and send them to your landlord via email, postal mail or text message. The landlord has seven days after receiving the list to correct any problems.
Alexander Johnson: The tenant must document, if any, what happened in the last seven days.
You can legally refuse to pay rent if you do nothing. Under Florida law, however, a landlord may still seek an eviction. Even if the eviction is successful, it will remain on your record.
Alexander Johnson: Even though the tenant followed the instructions of the State of Florida, the eviction still appears.
Chara has not heard back from her landlord, and she stopped paying her rent. She is afraid he will try to force her to move out.
Chara Fitzpatrick says: “The market for housing is very hot right now. It is hard to find an apartment.”
Robin didn’t move so she used plastic tape to seal the windows.
Robin Erb, “He asked me to remove that.” “He fought me to take it down, because it looked wrong.”
This report includes links and instructions for the 7-day notice form if your landlord doesn’t fix things around your apartment.
In our “Paradise Lost” special, we spoke to senior citizens who struggle with rising housing costs in South Florida.
Karen Hensel, 7News.
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