WSVN — If you are a renter, you might be able to relate. A leak that can’t be fixed and that eventually causes mold– collapsing and creating an enormous mess. How does a renter solve that before it becomes a disaster? Just take a couple of minutes to listen to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Sometimes when you rent, you get a great place… and sometimes you don’t.

Jeanene Giordano:  "First year we lived here there was a shooting in front of the complex. We’ve had a leaky roof we’ve had rodents."

Now you are probably thinking, "OK Jeanene, when your lease is up, move out."

Jeanene Giordano: "Every year I push back. ‘Oh I will move next year,’ and it’s always something that happens and unfortunately I can’t move at that time."

Jeanene rents her condo from the owner. She says he is nice but the problem is a leak the Versailles Gardens Condo Association is required to fix.

Jeanene Giordano: "It went from leaking to having a big circle around it, molding really bad."

The leaky pipe was above the ceiling in the common area. You can see the brown spots, the bubbles and the water drops. For three months, Jeanene and the landlord tried to get the condo association to fix the leak. They wouldn’t, and then…

Jeanene Giordano: "And everything just came crashing down. You just heard a very big bang. Debris everywhere, everything in my bathroom hit the floor."

Jeanene had just walked out of the bathroom into her bedroom when the soggy ceiling came smashing down….

Jeanene Giordano: "It was really bad. I was in more shock and disbelief that it actually happened. The piece of wood that fell into my tub was massive, thick and very big. It could have hit me."

Jeanene was stunned but she was also steaming…

Jeanene Giordano: "Just to know that it could have been prevented for three months. E-mails, text messages, phone calls. This needs to be fixed."

By the time Jeanene called us, five days had passed. The association finally sent a maintenance guy to fix the leaky pipe, but they didn’t clean up the mess and didn’t replace the ceiling.

Jeanene Giordano: "And leaving, ‘Oh we will be back to fix it’ and never return.’"

Well Howard, look at the pictures of a renter’s nightmare who has to pay for these repairs. The association, the landlord or the renter…

Howard Finkelstein: "Because the pipe is part of the common element, meaning it’s under the control of the condo association, they are responsible. They have to maintain the pipe, they have to fix it in a timely manner and they have to repair any damage caused by the leak."

We called the Versailles Gardens Condo Association several times and went to their office. They would not talk to us. Finally, the landlord Luciano Humberto got tired of waiting on the association to repair the condo and did it himself. He then sent them the $800 repair bill to the association. They refused to pay it because Luciano told us, they claim they did not authorize the work. He could sue them and get it back but he said, he is not going to bother.

Howard Finkelstein: "If you are renter and you have a major problem like the one Jeanene had, your solution is to send your landlord a letter giving them seven days to correct the problem or you will consider the lease broken, move out and by law, they are required to return the security deposit or any money they owe you. If the problem is caused by an association, the landlord has to go after them."

Jeanene’s bathroom is back to normal and her landlord felt so bad, he gave her a break on next month’s rent…

Jeanene Giordano: "Thankfully, he was able to take a couple hundred, $300 hundred off my rent so I can go ahead and buy anything that was damaged."

If you are a renter, in an apartment or condo, that seven day letter can help you out. If you own the condo, a rule of thumb on who is responsible for a leak. If it’s behind the drywall and services more than one unit, it’s the association’s responsibility like in Jeanene’s case. If it only services one unit, it’s the owner’s responsibility… unless the condo documents say differently.

A slow dripping problem draining you? Ready to burst through with a solution? Contact us Howard is worthless as a repairman, but when we show up, things sometimes seem to get fixed. With this Help me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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