An unusual homeowner headache: A couple owns half a duplex, the roof on their neighbor’s side leaks and water pours into their side. What’s being done about it? Nothing, which is why they called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Owning a home can come with hurdles. Owning half a duplex can almost guarantee a headache.

Tiffany Swartz: “I feel like we’re on a sinking ship that we just can’t get off of, honestly.”

After James and Tiffany bought this side of the duplex back in 2007, they had to replace their part of the roof, and their neighbor needed to replace his side as well.

Tiffany Swartz: “Any time it rained, his whole floor in the house would flood the whole thing, so…”

But their neighbor wouldn’t fix his side, and you don’t have to be a roofer to know what happens if one part of a building leaks.

Tiffany Swartz: “It’s starting coming into our side, so it became where we had to start shoveling the water out on our side and, you know, towels and everything.”

They talked to their neighbor about his problem and how it had become their problem.

James Swartz: “He just kind of lost interest in everything.”

Then the fellow passed away, and the bank had control of the property.

Tiffany Swartz: “They said they weren’t responsible. They actually told us that whoever the new owners would be would be the responsible ones.”

But because of COVID, the bank couldn’t foreclose and sell the house to a new owner, so James and Tiffany have suffered for months.

Tiffany Swartz: “And so, basically any time it rains a lot, we get water on our side, and we’ve got mold growing and just a big mess.”

James Swartz: “The walls are starting to turn black every time it rains.”

The bank did put a blue tarp on the neighbor’s roof, which soon blew apart.

And so water keeps coming into the Swartzs’ side.

Their drywall bubbles, their baseboards rot, and the mold grows.

James Swartz: “Oh, I’m very angry and very upset.”

Howard, what can owners like Swartzs do?

Howard Finkelstein: “Technically, the lender doesn’t own the property till they foreclose on it, and foreclosures have been pushed back because of COVID, but the lender can fix the roof. If they won’t, ask the city to push them to do it or go to court and ask a judge to require the lender to fix the roof.”

We spoke to Cooper City officials, and they told us they are pushing to get this resolved.

The lender’s attorney has now scheduled a hearing on March 9 to ask the judge to give them permission to repair the roof.

Cooper City will then do their part writing us, “The city understands the urgency the Swartz’s face, and our mutual goal is to expedite this resolution on behalf of our residents.”

And after that, Tiffany and James will have to deal with the damage inside their home.

Howard Finkelstein: “First, file a claim with your insurance company. If they refuse to pay, you have to hire a lawyer to go after the lender, and if you can convince the judge they were negligent by responding too slowly, they might have to pay for your repairs.”

Tiffany Swartz: “There’s some light at the end of the tunnel.”

Some light as the leaks will hopefully be sealed.

Tiffany Swartz: “At least if they fix their side, it will give us a chance to fix our side.”

And Tiffany said a city official told her they will try to help her get a grant to repair her side of the duplex.

Now, it’s not just half a duplex that can be a nightmare. Many neighborhoods have run-down houses in foreclosure. Push your city or county officials to help out. If they want, they have a lot of power at their disposal.

A problem splitting you apart? Don’t want a watered-down quick fix? Come under our roof. ‘Cause our patchwork can mold a nice solution.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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