Elisa Valverde’s battle to keep her North Miami Beach apartment has temporarily eclipsed her fight against cancer.
"My worry is that I have to live in the corner or in a shelter God forbid," said Valverde, one of the many renters in South Florida reaching out to the NBC 6 Investigators saying their landlords have treated them unfairly.
A new owner of Valverde’s apartment has ordered her out of her one bedroom apartment, a place she says holds family memories.
"This is the roof over my head, my home, my house, my school, my kitchen, this is everything for me," said Valverde.
She says her new owner raised the rent by $110 to $850 a month. She thinks that’s asking too much and since she says she can’t afford it she continued to pay the same rent she had been paying.
"I just want what’s fair and I want what’s right, " said Valverde.
So is there a limit on rent increases? We asked real estate attorney Juan Perez, who says it depends on the lease.
“If the lease is silent and it doesn’t say anything about any limitations technically or theoretically the landlord can raise it however much he wants," said Perez.
Since Valverde was paying month-to-month that allowed the new owner to either raise the rent or give her 15 days to leave. The owner did not return our calls and is evicting her. She knows she’ll have to move soon.
ENTERING YOUR APARTMENT
Alice Castillo who rented an apartment with her family in Miami-Dade also had issues with her landlord. Her concern was how maintenance workers entered her apartment for a routine inspection when her 14-year-old son was home alone. Home video showed broken locks that she said were left behind by the workers.
"They had no legal right to break down my door like they did. They broke the locks. They had no business doing that," said Castillo.
Her son, David Hernandez, showed the NBC 6 investigators how he hid in fear that day.
"This is the bathroom where I was in and locked myself and I had the lights off," said Hernandez
Castillo admits a letter was posted on her door warning about a possible inspection days before and that she missed attempts by the landlord to reach her that day on her cell. She says she should have been sent a letter personally addressed to her about the inspection. Perez says it appears the landlord made a good faith effort to comply with their obligation to notify her.
"Reasonable notice is typically 24 hours and also that they’re going to access the property within reasonable business hours," said Perez.
But Perez says what’s not so clear is whether the landlord was excessive in how they entered for a routine inspection.
"Was the way that they accessed the property reasonable? Did they just come storming in, barging in, breaking down doors, that’s probably not reasonable," said Perez.
The Castillo family says after reporting the incident to police their lease wasn’t renewed. Now the family says they are weighing legal options.
By email, the building owners say Castillo's accusations are "categorically false" and say they gave her notice of inspection on "no less than three occasions" and were refused access.
Renters do have rights that are clearly outlined under Florida law which include:
• The home must be fit to live in, free from pests and have things like working plumbing, hot water, locks on doors.
• If repairs are needed to make a home fit, the landlord must pay for them
• And even if you don’t have a lease, once you pay rent you are considered a renter protected under state law.