(WSVN) - A young brother and sister wanted to move into their own apartment. They did, and you won’t believe what happened in their new place. It’s why they called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Many people want to move from home and be on their own. Maliyah and her brother Joseph knew what it would take to do that.

Maliyah Collins: Work, work. We worked a lot. Over four years, me and my brother were saving. Kept saving, kept saving.”

This summer they found an apartment where the property manager wanted them to pay $8,800 to move in.

Maliyah Collins: “She told us, since we didn’t have any credit or anything, we had to pay six months’ rent.”

They paid it, left their mother’s house and moved in.

Maliyah Collins: “We were excited that we really did this big step.”

For a month and a half, everything was great.

Until things collapsed.

Maliyah Collins: “I just heard a big boom, and he called me to come in. He just fell inside the ground, like the wood just fell with him.”

A hole had opened up in the living room floor. Later that day it got worse.

Maliyah Collins: “The whole floor caved in, was nothing in the room but the wood.”

Maliyah contacted the property manager.

Maliyah Collins: “She told me someone was going to come tomorrow to fix it. But how can someone fix that in a day?”

They didn’t fix it. The county slapped an unsafe structure warning on the property, and Maliyah was told her lease was terminated.

Maliyah Collins: “They told us we would be receiving some of the money, but they never followed up with us about it.”

In fact, the promise to return some of her money disappeared just like the floor.

Maliyah Collins: “I just want our money back.”

Losing all their money and their apartment is not what Maliyah and her brother expected when they moved out on their own.

Maliyah Collins: “It’s crazy. It’s scary. It’s devastating.”

Well, legally, where do the brother and sister stand, Howard?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “The law calls this a casualty, which terminates the lease. Also, they are entitled to get back unused or advanced rent plus their security deposit, but they do have to pay for the 45 days they lived there.”

We contacted the property manager. She agreed to return the entire $8,800 and not deduct rent for the 45 days Maliyah and her brother Joseph lived there.

She drew up a settlement that said, after both sides signed it, it was over.

And then a first for us. We got a text from Maliyah saying no.

She wrote “Personally, I want to accept what they’re offering but, (referring to her brother Joseph), he said he is not signing anything.”

Her brother wants to hire an attorney and sue the landlord.

What do you think about that, Howard?

Howard Finkelstein: “It’s risky. If you go to court and win, you are not going to get much more than they $8,800 the landlord offered and probably will have to pay your attorney 30% to 40% of that. If you lose, you don’t get anything back, and while you don’t have to pay your lawyer, you have to pay the landlord’s attorneys’ fees. If I were them, I would take the $8,800 and move on.”

We got Maliyah and Joseph the $8,800 they wanted. Her brother said forget that, but Mayilah won’t forget their first apartment experience.

Maliyah Collins: “I was confused. I was scared. I didn’t know what to do.”

Hopefully you’ll never experience that again.

And we don’t tell people what to do. We give them their options, tell them what we would do, and let them make a decision. Joseph might be right in turning down the $8,800, and he might be wrong.

A problem floored you? Contact us before things collapse. Let us nail it down and construct a solution for you.

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

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
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