(WSVN) - With rents soaring, a young couple had an idea to buy a motorhome and park it at a family home. They put down an $8,000 deposit, then the owner said he didn’t have to return the deposit or deliver the motorhome. Or does he? It’s why they called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

With rents long past being ridiculous, Lucia had a plan.

Lucia Jimenez: “We decided to try to get a motorhome to be able to afford it.”

Lucia and her fiancé Isiah would buy a 35-foot motorhome to live in, then park it for free at her mother’s.

Lucia Jimenez: “My brother was going to move the truck up the way in order to fit the 35 feet.”

They headed to a used car dealership in Miami and found a Georgie Boy for $17,000. Then each week, they sent money to the dealership to pay the $8,000 deposit while the dealer fixed the broken windshield and put seat belts in the front seats.

Lucia Jimenez: “We agreed that on July 15th I will put the rest of the money for the down payment in order to take the motorhome home.”

Each week, Lucia used Zelle to send the dealership anywhere from $400 to $1,200.

By July 15, she had given them the $8,000 deposit and went to pick up the motorhome.

Lucia Jimenez: “And the repairs weren’t done. He told me to come back when the repairs were done.”

The next day, Lucia came back.

Lucia Jimenez: “Then that’s when I saw there was water damage on the passenger door, so when we went inside, the floorboards are now squishy.”

Lucia said that was it for her.

Lucia Jimenez: “I told him I wanted my money back. I couldn’t wait any longer for the repairs. I don’t have the money to repair that water damage.”

The reply from the dealer?

Lucia Jimenez: “He advised me he wasn’t going to give me my money back, because the receipt says that if I didn’t pick it up within 48 hours…”

But the receipt said the pickup date was July 6, and Lucia has a text exchange with the salesman making it July 15. When she texted, “I just want to confirm we are all on the same page,” the dealer replied, “Yes.”

Didn’t matter, she was told.

Patrick Fraser: “So who broke the contract? You or him?”

Lucia Jimenez: “The dealership, because the unit wasn’t ready.”

But when the dealer refused to return her $8,000 deposit, Lucia realized her plan to find an inexpensive place to live was wrecked.

Lucia Jimenez: “It’s hard, especially when nobody can help me.”

Well, Howard, is Lucia entitled to get that $8,000 deposit back?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Legally, this is tough to figure out. The deposit is refundable if the seller breached the contract by not having the vehicle ready. However, Lucia is in breach if the dealer can prove she broke the contract. In that case, he can keep the $8,000.”

I went to the dealership, FinishLine Enterprises.

The owner, Gerardo Dominguez, didn’t want to talk on camera, but told me Lucia lost her deposit because the receipt says “non refundable.”

Maybe not true in this case, Howard says.

Dominguez also said, in the text where Lucia complained about the water damage, she wrote, “I lost my job and won’t be able to make an additional payment.”

I said, “You aren’t going to give her any money back?”

He said, “Nope, I run a business. My landlord doesn’t give me rent money back when I don’t make sales.”

Howard Finkelstein: “As I said, this a legal mess. If both can prove the other breached the contract, it will take a judge to sort it out and then decide whether to give one or the other $8,000 or each a portion of it.”

Lucia Jimenez: “I’m still going to take them to small claims court.”

Lucia is in tears, afraid of losing the $8,000 she worked so hard for, but she has a new job and the renewed determination to try to win in court.

Lucia Jimenez: “But at least I’ll try to fight and say I tried the best I could ’til the end.”

Sorry we couldn’t get the dealership to budge, Lucia, and we’ll be there in small claims court to let everyone know how the judge decides to settle this case.

Not a happy camper with a problem? Want to see it motor away? Drive over to us to see if we can crank up a solution.

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

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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