(WSVN) - South Florida renters have been hit hard with rent hikes as their leases expire, but one couple called 7 Investigates after they were told their rent was being raised in the middle of their lease. Here is 7’s Kevin Ozebek.

Marc and Bianca Castellano have a lot of complaints about their three-bedroom apartment in Pompano Beach.

Bianca Castellano: “I’ve got my AC running at 69 degrees, but the temperature in my house is 86.”

Not only is it hot in here. They say they also have a big issue with bugs.

Marc Castellano: “We just keep catching a bunch of roaches.”

A problem we saw firsthand.

But this couple says what sent them over the edge was a letter they received last month. It says…

Bianca Castellano: “‘We have recently reviewed our rent structure. As your living expenses have increased during this past year, so have our operating expenses.'”

The letter goes on to say that beginning Oct. 1, their rent will be $1,525 a month.

Marc Castellano: “Oh, I went ballistic.”

Bianca Castellano: “It’s just the last straw. This cannot be happening. This can’t be something that somebody can just do.”

Bianca and Marc were livid because their current lease has them paying $1,450 a month, and this lease does not expire until Jan. 31, 2023.

Bianca Castellano: “We’re keeping up our end of the promise, and all we ask is that you keep up your end of the promise.”

The couple has two young children. They say every penny counts.

Marc Castellano: “That extra $75 every single month is going to absolutely take away from our food, take away from gas, take away from experiences, take away from everything.”

Kevin Ozebek: “Will you pay the $75 extra a month?”

Bianca Castellano: “No. I mean, I will continue to pay what I promised to pay because that’s what I signed.”

We took Marc and Bianca’s lease to real estate attorney Gary Singer. We asked him if their landlord can raise the rent before their lease expires.

Gary Singer: “No, no they can’t. When you sign a contract, that contract is binding on both parties. Both the landlord and the tenant have to live with what they signed.”

We reached out to Kilmair Properties Inc., which owns the apartment. Shortly after, Marc and Bianca received voicemails from a Kilmair Properties employee.

Voicemail: “I just don’t understand why you didn’t think you could have the relationship with us to just call us and say that we made an error, because that’s all it was. Yours is just an oversight. You are going to get a letter that tells you to ignore it, but my bigger concern is that you didn’t feel like you could call us.”

Marc Castellano: “That’s ridiculous.”

Marc showed us his phone logs to prove he did call Kilmair Properties to voice complaints.

Kilmair properties sent us a statement saying the couple “…is one of 60-plus tenants on that street and the only one that had a written annual lease. We sent the packages out to help get tenants back on written leases that had expired during COVID. It was in no way, shape or form to hurt anyone or do anything wrong.”

Bianca Castellano: “I’m very happy that she said this is a mistake, that we are not going to be having that rent increase, so I’m grateful to have that communication finally given to us, established.”

Bianca and Marc say, despite their complaints, they’ll stay put until their lease expires. After that, they hope to move to a new home.

Kevin Ozebek, 7News.


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