WSVN — Odds are, you have signed a contract. To lease an apartment, buy a car, and no doubt you thought it was clear and both sides understood everything, but what if something is not clear? It’s why one couple called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser to see what can be done.

When you see someone who has opened a new business, you often wonder what gave them the idea. For Manny and Amy, it came at a market in Costa Rica.

Amy Miller: "And they have this huge roaster and he’s got three cooling bins going at all times. And I was thinking, ‘Why can’t we do that in Miami? Why don’t we have the opportunity to get freshly roasted coffee?"

But to roast their own coffee, they needed a hard-to-find machine. And then they heard about a guy on Miami Beach.

Manny Carrera: "He opens his garage and there is this thing taking up half of the garage. Yeah, we just had to buy it. It was just too good to be true."

Then they needed a small warehouse.

Amy Miller: "She showed me the space, I walked in and I went, ‘This is perfect.’"

That was a year ago. Argyle Coffee was born and is doing well, selling their brand and making special blends of coffee for restaurants and other businesses.

Manny Carrera: "It’s so fun to come in every day. You’re creating."

It was a dream come true for a year, ’till their lease recently came up for renewal.

Amy Miller: "And then we have the one person we think will really support us just say, ‘No.’"

Look at the lease. It says the lessee (meaning the renter) shall have the option to renew for an additional term of 12-36 months at 5 percent. Manny and Amy wrote a letter opting to renew for 36 months, but their landlord believes the lease gave her the right to pick the length and she chose to renew them for 12 months. And she wanted the rent increased by 20 percent.

Manny Carrera: "This is new deal. If you want it, take it. If not, that’s it."

Well Howard, you have read the lease. It says 12-36 months. Both sides say it means a different thing. Legally, what’s your opinion?

Howard Finkelstein: "The lease is ambiguous. For example, the 5 percent increase doesn’t say whether its a year or for three years. As for the length of the lease, is it three 12 months leases or one 36 month lease? It’s not clear, but clearly the tenant has the right to renew. The question is the length and the increases."

I spoke to the landlord. Diann Feleppa thinks she is completely right.

She told me she gave a $100 a month off the rent in the first year because they were just starting a new business. She was now restoring the rent to where it should have been, plus the annual increase or about 20 percent to get back to where it should have been.

When I told her the couple couldn’t afford the 20 percent increase, she said, ‘OK, she would lower it to 5 percent a year.’

Mrs. Feleppa is also convinced the lease lets her renew it for just one year, but after talking to us, she agreed to make it 18 months with that 5 percent increase.

Amy and Manny said they want 36 months. When Mrs. Feleppa said no, they sued her. It’s now in court.

Howard Finkelstein: "With any contract, read it carefully. If everything is not clear, it’s ambiguous. Fix it before you sign it so you don’t have legal battles like this."

While they battle it out, Manny continues to create his Argyle Coffee blends, a business they are convinced has a great future.

Manny Carrera: "Anywhere you go in the world, a cup of coffee is put down in front of you, you sit down, you relax. It brings people together."

Maybe they can pour a great cup of coffee for their landlord to try to work it out because going to court is risky. Whoever loses could have to pay the other sides legal fees. That’s why judges send both sides to mediation, to see if a mediator can get them to settle.

Trouble brewing in your home? Ready for a new lease on life? Sign up with us. Hopefully we can renew your outlook on life. 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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