Covid Confusion

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(WSVN) - More coronavirus questions: if your association fees get lost because of closings, do you have to pay a late fee? If you fight a fine for not wearing a mask, does your case stand a chance in court? Answers in tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

The Hammocks are an enormous community in Kendall.

Beatriz Viera, check got lost: “It’s very pretty, kept clean. It’s safe, very safe.”

Beatriz likes living here, but when the coronavirus hit and the management office had to close, life got complicated for her.

Beatriz Viera: “I decided to send my payment certified mail, which, of course, that certifies that they got it.”

Beatriz sent her quarterly maintenance fee 13 days late, but she says the post office sent proof it was delivered.

Beatriz Viera: “And to my surprise, there was no signature. It said COVID-19 on the actual signature space, but that they assured me that it had been received or delivered, in this case.”

But when the $128 check wasn’t cashed for a few weeks, Beatriz says she called the management company again and again before finally getting in touch with someone.

Beatriz Viera: “‘We are actually working from home.’ ‘Oh, OK, listen, are you able to tell me about my check?’ ‘OK, we’ll get back to you.’ Well, I never heard from them.”

Beatriz says she didn’t hear from them, but she did get a letter from the board’s attorney.

Beatriz Viera: “And now I find myself with a letter saying that I owe them 600 change because they never received my payment. They’re including attorney fees.”

Beatriz countered she has proof from the post office her $128 payment was delivered, and therefore feels she doesn’t have to pay the $600 fee.

Beatriz Viera: “All I wanted was for them to tell me, ‘We lost the check. We can’t find it, send me another one.'”

Well, Howard, the coronavirus has created chaos. Offices had to close, things fell through the cracks, so does Beatriz have to pay the extra fees?

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “In this case, no because she has proof from the post office that the check was delivered through certified mail. That saves her, and she does not have to pay the extra fees. Otherwise, she would be out of luck and have the pay the full $600.”

Masks are now mandatory in South Florida, but a viewer says her company doesn’t require them, and people at work are not wearing masks or social distancing. Is a mask required at a private business?

Howard Finkelstein: “The way the emergency orders in Miami-Dade and Broward are written, you are required to wear a mask in every business, whether it’s a restaurant or a law office, unless you have a health or safety issue. In Monroe, if you can stay six feet away from a co-worker, you don’t have to wear a mask.”

Another mask question since they have become such a hot topic: a viewer went into a takeout restaurant and customers were not wearing masks. What can you do?

Howard Finkelstein: “Well, first of all, you leave, and if you want to, you can call the police, who can cite the business or shut them down and fine the people not wearing masks.”

All right, Howard, if you are fined for not wearing a mask and fight it in court, do you think the fines will stand up or get tossed?

Howard Finkelstein: “I think they will stand up, and here is why: in America, you have the right to be free, and some believe that means not wearing a mask, but the government has the right to protect the general population from the virus, and that means you have to wear a mask. In a showdown over masks, the government will win.”

In Beatriz’s case, give the association credit. After we talked to their attorney, he quickly solved the problem and removed the extra fees.

Beatriz now just has to pay what she originally owed, and saving a few hundred dollars is a big deal for her.

Beatriz Viera: “For me, I haven’t been able to work for the last two and a half months. I do sales for a living, and there is nothing for me out there right now.”

Nice that the attorney for the Hammocks association took care of the problem and saved her a few hundred dollars.

Now, if you have questions you need answered, problems you need solved, whether it’s coronavirus or your normal South Florida pain in the neck irritations, get in touch with us. That’s why we are here.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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