(WSVN) - A fire forced them from the house they were renting, so they asked their landlord for their security deposit back. They called. His response was unbelievable, and that’s why they then called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Since Felicia needs reading glasses, she likes to do it in style.

Felicia Jackson: “I tend to wear nicer, fashionable glasses, so if I’m going to wear them, they’re going to be nice.”

They are pretty, and it’s pretty clear she could never have foreseen what was about to happen to her.

Felicia Jackson: “And I was like, What’s going on? Which is that your house is on fire. I said, ‘The house is on fire?'”

Felicia and Robert rushed home to the house they had rented for years to find smoke pouring out of the roof.

Felicia Jackson: “And you can see where the flames had went up the back.”

The fire started in the electrical box. Felicia said that’s no surprise since she had told the landlord about electrical problems.

Felicia Jackson: “Matter of fact, right before the fire, there was a — we had a bad rain and there was water in the light fixture in the kitchen.”

After the firefighters knocked a hole in the roof to put the fire out, the landlord showed up and the surprises continued.

Felicia Jackson: “‘I need to talk to you and Robert. I hope you know that your rent is going up.'”

The landlord told Felicia they could still live here, apparently not noticing the condition of the house and an unsafe structure notice the fire department had put up with a warning to Felicia.

Felicia Jackson: “We couldn’t live there. The fire department said no one can go in here.”

Felicia had lost everything, her furniture, her bedroom set, her TV, her clothes ruined.

Felicia Jackson: “It brought me to tears. It brought me to tears.”

She then asked her landlord for their $3,000 security deposit back so they could find another place and the landlord’s reply was another stunner.

Felicia Jackson: “We left the house in such a way. Where now we owe him $675.”

Instead of getting their $3,000 back, the landlord wanted her to pay him money for the mess the fire from an old electrical box caused.

Felicia Jackson: “Needless to say, I lost it.”

Robert and Felicia had planned to get married this year. Instead, they had to use all that money to rent an apartment and get furniture because of a fire they got no help with.

Felicia Jackson: “And to lose everything is devastating. You don’t know what to do next.”

Well, Howard, what should Felicia and Robert do?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News Legal Expert: “Well, first of all you cannot live in an unsafe structure, meaning Felicia has a right to terminate the lease and gets her unused rent and security deposit back. If the landlord knew about the electrical problem and did nothing, he also has to pay to replace her furniture. If he won’t pay, hire an attorney or take him to small claims court.”

My conversations with the landlord, David Garrett, were certainly the strangest this year.

When I said I was calling about the house fire, he said there was no fire.

I said I am looking at video of smoke coming out of the roof.

He said that’s from electrical wiring, not a fire.

I said what about the charred wood. He said that’s from wiring.

I said OK, what about the money you owe Felicia and Robert?

He said they walked out of the lease and moved out.

I said the house was uninhabitable.

He said they could have moved in four days later.

But she could not. Six months later, it’s still empty.

The county cited the owner for doing work without a permit.

And Felicia is going to work hiring a lawyer or taking Garrett to small claims court herself to get her money back.

Felicia Jackson: “I am not giving up. No, no, not at all. My next step was to go a legal route.”

But that’s next year. Felicia says now she’s going to focus on the holidays instead.

Felicia Jackson: “It hurts. But I’m not going to let him steal my holiday joy.”

We will follow Felicia when she goes to small claims court if a lawyer takes her case, because if Felicia wins, the landlord has to pay her attorneys fees for the case of a landlord who says there was smoke but no fire.

Getting smoked by a problem? Don’t let it burn you up. Get fired up and contact us. See if we can blaze a trail to victory for you.

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

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