Dear friends and family,
I am not used to asking for help but I find myself needing your telephone and e-mail resources. I am renting a home in Tampa, Fla. from a group of foreign investors that have refused to make badly needed repairs and are entering into the third year of not making any mortgage payments. The home is in foreclosure and we're at risk of the bank taking the house, even though we have made the rent payments on time every month for over three and a half years. As we fight for the owners to do the right thing and uphold their side of the lease (and their mortgage), I feel that is important for the court system and press to understand what is happening to renters all over our country.
We have made partial rental payments for the last two months to force the owners to correct these wrongs. Even though the house is very close to being taken by the bank, the owners decided to file for eviction, especially after we refused to go along with the owners plans to file fraudulent forms to get a HAMP loan modification (which is only available to home owners who are the primary resident). Today, I have found out that the presiding landlord/tenant Judge Robert P. Cole essentially "robo-signed" a default judgment for the investment group without giving us a hearing or trial to reveal the facts about our case.
As you know, I am completely blind and my two daughters, ages 11 and 14, also have Sticklers Syndrome. The judge has given the investment group privilege to evict us without a trial, even though we paid rent that was accepted by the landlord.
This is not right. We know this decision to file for eviction in lieu of making repairs was made in haste because we have evidence of conversations from the ringleader of the investment group demanding that we help them perpetrate a fraud on the H.A.M.P. refinancing program.
We are not trying to "buck the system." We are protecting our rights and our family, as well as the rights of all other respectable renters who are dealing with unethical and greedy multi-home investors. These same investors inflated the value of the homes in Florida, then, by allowing the homes to go voluntarily into foreclosure have put their renters in jeopardy of being homeless at a moments notice. They have also been responsible for the drastic drop in home values, putting many of our homeowner neighbors "under water", and making it difficult for folks like us to get loans from the banks to provide a stable home for our children. We have found ourselves in a position to take a stand for many others in similar situations, and we need your help. We need the robo-signing judge to pay more attention to this case and many others like it, as well as all other judges who would turn a "blind-eye" to the situation of families at risk from their absentee investor landlords.
We followed the letter of the law, and followed the steps noted above. We filed a motion to request a hearing for the judge to determine if the rent that we already paid to the landlord and was accepted was sufficient to go to court on this. Our motion was ignored. The judge never even scheduled a hearing. We have not had due process. This default judgment needs to be set aside.
But the problem does not end with our story. This scenario is being played out throughout Florida and the United States. There needs to be some new legislation to tie the mortgage and lease situations together. When you voluntarily stop paying mortgage payments when you have renters, your tenants are endangered. We need a champion and advocate to set this in motion.
Please try to contact advocate and documentary director Michael Moore, songwriter Stevie Wonder (from Detroit, my hometown,advocate and actor Ben Affleck (who played a blind lawyer in "Daredevil"), Arianna Huffington (The Huffington Post... see my blog, "Blind Anger"), Michael J. Fox (who has demonstrated to the world how to deal with a disability with grace and strength, the honorable and all-around great guy Governor Charlie Crist (the People's Governor), or anyone else you can think of.