Landlord Cut Power to Force Eviction

(WSVN) - She said that even though she is up to date with her rent, her landlord tried to evict her. When she told him that was illegal, he cut her power off to the apartment to get her to leave. Is that legal? Plus, can your boss force you to get a COVID-19 test if you are healthy? All that as we bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Clarica Walker: “I’m a mom with five kids.”

Clarica is a busy woman, living in an apartment complex with her five children.

Clarica Walker: “All of my neighbors love me and my kids. My kids are very well respected and mannered.”

Many tenants are not able to pay rent during the pandemic, but Clarica has.

Clarica Walker: “I’ve been paying my rent faithfully for four years, every month.”

The apartment is owned by a church, and one day their property manager delivered a message.

Clarica Walker: “‘So you’re just gonna have to find yourself somewhere to go, like, ASAP.'”

Clarica said she was told they wanted to evict her because they only wanted senior citizens living in the building.

Clarica countered that she was up to date on her rent, and it’s illegal to evict anyone during the pandemic.

Then…

Clarica Walker: “On Friday at noon, the power goes out in my house.”

The manager had turned the power off to her apartment and locked the meter room, so she could not turn it back on, which is dangerous for Clarica’s daughter.

Clarica Walker: “My 9-year-old daughter in there has chronic asthma. I have to put her on a breathing machine twice a day.”

Clarica called the police, but they told her, legally, they couldn’t unlock the meter room.

She did run an extension cord to an outlet outside for her daughter’s breathing machine, as the entire family sleeps in the stifling heat at night.

Clarica Walker: “How can a man treat people this way? That is not the godly way.”

The electricity has now been off for six days, and it breaks Clarica’s heart to see how her kids are living.

Clarica Walker: “I’m about to cry now because it’s heartbreaking.”

Clarica said she is up to date on her rent, but her power was turned off. Howard, is that a legal way to get a tenant to leave?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Absolutely not. While you cannot evict tenants at the moment because of the governor’s order, you also cannot turn off the electricity or the water. If you do, you could owe the tenant the equivalent of three months’ rent. If something happened to Clarica’s daughter because of her medical condition, the landlord could be responsible for her medical bills. The law takes this very seriously.”

We then contacted Legal Aide. The manager wouldn’t talk to us, and then we’ll tell you what we did next.

But first, a couple of more questions.

Can your boss force you to take a COVID-19 test if you are not sick or showing any symptoms?

Howard Finkelstein: “No, they cannot make you take the test, and if you say no, they can fire you, so you have to make the choice.”

If you are required to get that COVID-19 test, who pays for it?

Howard Finkelstein: “The federal law for COVID-19 is not clear. Some insurance companies will pay, and if they won’t, if the employer is requiring the test, I believe it is up to them to pay.”

If you don’t feel safe at work and can do your job from home, do you have a right to work from home?

Howard Finkelstein: “No. Even if you have a medical condition, your employer can make you come to work. If you don’t feel safe, your only option is to quit.”

Clarica Walker: “The light came on, and I just jumped for joy because my kids don’t have to suffer no more.”

After we contacted a few people, the manager, who still won’t talk to us, turned the power back on.

Clarica Walker: “I don’t care how many tears roll down my face. Thank you, Help Me Howard and Channel 7News, for even stepping up and taking my case when ya’ll got millions of cases to deal with.”

Of course, Clarica wants to move out and move away, but she lost her job when the coronavirus hit and doesn’t have the money right now for first, last and security deposit at the next place.

Howard Finkelstein: “Fortunately, Legal Aide has taken Clarica’s case and may go after the landlord for turning her power off for six days.”

Got a problem burning you up? Ready to let us move in? We may not be electric, but we can know how to flip the right switch once in a while.

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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