(WSVN) - South Florida is becoming infamous for bad real estate deals, and for some unscrupulous sales associates, stealing home has become a pastime. But what do you do if someone takes your hard earned cash and never delivers your home sweet home? 7’s Brandon Beyer has more on how to get your money back.

When it happens, it hurts: putting down good money for a place to call home — and losing it all.

Emily Zlicha: “We lost a total of $9,000.”

Last November, Emily and Ariel Zlicha wrote a check to real estate sales associate Sham Donald and First Luxury Realty. He took their money but never delivered on his promise of a home to rent in Pembroke Pines.

In North Miami, Shakevia Simon lost her money in a different deal.

Shakevia Simon: “[I lost] $2,100 and, uh, that was cash.”

Jean Berthelot of Friendly International Realty promised to help her find a new apartment. She says he kept the money, and her move-in day never came.

Shakevia Simon: “I was sleeping in cars. I practically had nowhere to go. I was in hotel to hotel, from Fort Lauderdale to Downtown Miami.”

Perry Johannesburg: “It makes me very angry.”

Licensed real estate instructor Perry Johannesburg says dirty real estate deals happen all too often.

Perry Johannesburg: “We live in South Florida. This is, in my opinion, the capitol of fraud.”

Plenty of people lose money here, but some do get it back through the state’s Real Estate Recovery Fund.

Perry Johannesburg: “The Real Estate Recovery Fund protects victims of active and current valid real estate licensees who either committed malpractice, negligence or defrauded someone.”

Emily found out about the fund and got busy.

Emily Zlicha: “The only way, actually, to move forward with the Florida Real Estate Recovery Fund was to have a civil lawsuit.”

She sued Sham Donald in Broward court and won a default judgment.

Shakevia sued Jean Berthelot.

Judge: “He’s not here? So what’s going to happen is, you’re going to receive a default judgment.”

She won her case as well.

There’s still one more hurdle. They have to determine if their real estate associates had current, active licenses when they took their money. If they did, Emily and Shakevia have a good chance of getting their money back.

Perry Johannesburg: “Get your judgment and then, within two years, make a claim against the Recovery Fund. The sooner the better, obviously, to get your money back.”

Emily has already sent in her paperwork.

Emily Zlicha: “Now it’s really waiting to see what happens on their end. They have to review the case. They have to make a judgment on what will be the final outcome.”

Shakevia says she will be making a call now that she knows about the fund.

Shakevia Simon: “If there’s a chance that I can get the money back, that would make me very, very happy.”

But for now, she’s saving her money for a new place to call home.

The experts say, before you hand over any money to a realtor, always make sure they’re licensed.

Go online to MyFloridaLicense.com, put in the agent’s name, and if it says “active and current” with no complaints, you’re good to go. For more information just go to our website.



Copyright 2023 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox