(WSVN) - A tenant and the landlord were having a dispute, then the landlord’s parking lot was destroyed. Who did it and what happens now? It’s why the tenant called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Let’s go straight to the video. Watch as a front end loader destroys the asphalt at this business in Davie.
Roberto Salas, owner, United Auto Center: “I was like, What? What’s going on? I mean, this is like, like earthquake or something like that.'”
Who is doing this in a landlord tenant dispute? Take a guess, and when we get back to it, you might be surprised.
Roberto Salas: “We are, yeah, very good a spot. We are very close to the Hard Rock Seminole Cafe.”
Roberto is one of the owners of United Auto Center in Davie, where the parking lot once looked good, and where Roberto leases three bays to sell nice used cars and trucks.
Roberto Salas: “We pay the rent on time, never been late in six years.”
But they have a landlord at Pelican Bays who often slaps the dealership with fines. One was $350 for two grease spots outside their warehouse.
The landlord also fined them for changing a tire in the parking lot and hit them with a $350 fine for leaving a truck in the parking lot, then had it towed after they closed for the day.
Roberto Salas: “The landlord started, you know, giving headaches and do a lot of bad stuff to us.”
When the 16th fine came, $300 for a toilet leak that Roberto said cost $10 to repair, Roberto said
enough is enough.
Roberto Salas: “We pay them fines, $5,000 or $6,000, and I say, ‘No, this time I’m not going to pay. That’s it.'”
The landlord sued to evict United Auto Center for not paying the fine. They countersued.
After that, the front end loader showed up.
Roberto Salas: “So, you know, he’s doing a lot of stuff to hurt me.”
As the asphalt was being pushed in front of the entrance to the car dealer’s doors, Roberto says he asked the operator to stop. The driver apologized but said the landlord hired him to do it.
Roberto Salas: “That the owner told him to leave the material like that.”
An employee shot video of the man they call the landlord, the fellow in the baseball cap.
Pelican Bays is a big warehouse, but the only parking lot destroyed was the area in front of United Auto Center.
Roberto Salas: “I’m not doing nothing wrong. I’m just selling my cars. I don’t know; it’s just something crazy.”
Well, Howard, Roberto thinks it’s crazy, but is it legal for a landlord to fine a tenant, and when he doesn’t pay, destroy his own parking lot?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “In this case, no and no. The lease does not allow fines, and if a tenant doesn’t pay one, it doesn’t give the landlord the right to break the lease and evict them. In this case, you also cannot destroy your own parking lot. The law calls this constructive eviction, meaning the landlord did not give notice and interfered with the tenant’s business.”
I called the owner of Pelican Bays, Charles Rowars, to find out his reason for destroying his own parking lot. He didn’t return my calls.
I went to Rowars’ office. The door was locked. Someone was inside but would not come out.
I contacted Rowars’ lawyer. He didn’t respond, either, but they will have to talk when they face a judge.
Howard Finkelstein: “A judge can act quickly in this case. In my opinion, the landlord has a losing case, and the court could award the car dealership damages for the lost revenue and the cost to move to a new location if they want to get out.”
Roberto Salas: “We called the police. We called code enforcement.”
Called the police because their cameras caught someone trying to cut their door locks. Called code enforcement again because 20 truckloads of sand was dumped around their dealership. Their customers can’t get in now.
Roberto Salas: “There’s no way we can do business like this. This is crazy, I don’t know how to describe it.”
Davie has now issued a violation notice against the landlord for tearing up the parking lot without a permit. The troubles are piling up for the landlord, but they are also piling up for United Auto Center. We will let you know what the judge decides to do in this strange, strange case.
A problem tearing you up? Ready to bulldoze your way out? Drive over to us, and see if we can pave the way to a solution.
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