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  1. #1
    loopholed is offline Junior Member
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    Landlord/Owner did not disclose sinkhole

    I am renting a 1700sqft SFH in Naples, FL. Two year lease -- I've been here for 6 months now. I've recently begun to notice the tell-tale signs of sinkhole activity in/outside the home. Don't know why I didn't put it all together before. When I moved in, I suppose I thought the owner had just done a crummy job patching/painting/fixing up the place. Recently the tile in the bathroom started heaving up so I went to google and started reading up. All the signs are there: Cracking where the ceiling meets the walls, floors that are un-level, separation cracks at corners, doors and windows that no longer open/close properly, cracks along the window sills. Since then, I've gone around the house and counted at least 150 different signs of sinkhole damage. Thing is: about 100 of them were recently painted, spackled, and/or covered up in some manner. I feel like a complete idiot because it's totally obvious the owner attempted to cover up this damage prior to putting the home up for rent. Perhaps it's more obvious now than when I moved in because the house is slowly pulling itself apart and all his recent painting/caulking etc is coming undone. I feel 100% certain that I could prove in court that the owner knew he was renting us a sinkhole home.

    I haven't said anything to the owner yet. The home still seems very habitable to me and I know that most sinkholes are not catastrophic. However, the damage is slowly increasing and I feel uncertain about whether I am putting my childrens' lives at risk here. In the face of this uncertainty, I feel I have no choice but to be cautious and do the right thing for my family by moving out.

    How should I go about 'breaking' the last 18 months of the lease without this turning into a massive legal battle? Should I hire a lawyer to write him, asking for my money back and an end to the lease? Or should I try and work this out directly with him? I really doubt he's going to admit to me or anyone that he has a sinkhole under his home despite all the evidence. It would mean financial disaster for him, plus why would he admit that he knowingly let us move in here without disclosing the situation? But, he went to a lot of trouble to hide the damage. But it's all coming apart at the seams again, and as I said before, I can prove without a doubt that he knew the sinkhole was here before we signed a lease. He has $1800 in 'last month's rent' and a $2000 deposit. Legally, I believe he was obligated to disclose the sinkhole situation. Does anyone have any advice on my bizarre situation?
  2. #2
    csi7 is offline Senior Member
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    Take dated and timed pictures for proof.

    Check into the county rules about sinkholes, and ask questions, hypothetically, to get answers.
  3. #3
    Ohiogal is offline Senior Member
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    Can you prove he knew there was a SINKHOLE?
    Parents should remember 3 things: Love your kids more than you hate your ex; when you have children the relationship with the other parent is until death; your children determine what type of nursing home you end up in.
    Nothing stated by me should be taken as giving you legal advice or forming an attorney/client relationship.

    Attorney-GAL in Ohio.

    I've removed the knife from my back, polished it, and will one day return it -- long after you think I have forgotten.
  4. #4
    loopholed is offline Junior Member
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    Yes, I can 100% unequivocally prove that he knew there was a sinkhole.
  5. #5
    antrc170 is offline Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by loopholed View Post
    Yes, I can 100% unequivocally prove that he knew there was a sinkhole.
    How? You stated that you have no acknowlegement from the owner that he knew the presence of any sinkhole. Patching holes, tiling or painting before renting a home is not indicitive of knowledge...it's common practice to touch up a place before renting.
  6. #6
    Ohiogal is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by loopholed View Post
    Yes, I can 100% unequivocally prove that he knew there was a sinkhole.
    How? And what evidence do YOU have that PROVES there is a sinkhole? Has an expert been out to the house and verified it or are you guessing based on the internet?
    Parents should remember 3 things: Love your kids more than you hate your ex; when you have children the relationship with the other parent is until death; your children determine what type of nursing home you end up in.
    Nothing stated by me should be taken as giving you legal advice or forming an attorney/client relationship.

    Attorney-GAL in Ohio.

    I've removed the knife from my back, polished it, and will one day return it -- long after you think I have forgotten.
  7. #7
    loopholed is offline Junior Member
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    I have additional information from the county building and code enforcement office which proves the owner knew about it prior to leasing the home. However, we would have to get a decent ways into the legal process to get a court order for the county office to release the information.

    I hope for advice related to these two questions:
    1) Was the owner required, by some Florida statute, to disclose the Sinkhole situation prior to leasing us the home? and,
    2) Even if the landlord is in violation of a that statute, might there not be some better way to handle this situation (secure the return of my money) and void the lease? Is there some reasonable way to resolve this or, in your opinion, should I retain a lawyer from the get-go?
  8. #8
    Zigner is offline Senior Member
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    The owner is required to maintain the place in a habitable condition. Per your own admission, he has done so and is doing so.
  9. #9
    antrc170 is offline Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by loopholed View Post
    I have additional information from the county building and code enforcement office which proves the owner knew about it prior to leasing the home. However, we would have to get a decent ways into the legal process to get a court order for the county office to release the information.

    I hope for advice related to these two questions:
    1) Was the owner required, by some Florida statute, to disclose the Sinkhole situation prior to leasing us the home? and,
    2) Even if the landlord is in violation of a that statute, might there not be some better way to handle this situation (secure the return of my money) and void the lease? Is there some reasonable way to resolve this or, in your opinion, should I retain a lawyer from the get-go?
    You still haven't explained what exactly "proves" that the LL absolutely knew about the sinkhole. Is there paperwork that states xxx property has a sinkhole developing?
  10. #10
    loopholed is offline Junior Member
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    Whether the home is "inhabitable" seems to be the first thought that crosses everyone's mind here. I appreciate your thoughts but since the home is (in my opinion) still functioning electrically and plumbing-wise, I have to find another way to void the lease, frankly. I don't know how to respond to the posters here who think the responsible decision is to continue to live in this sinkhole home simply because it's currently inhabitable. Most home buyers, realtors, and insurance companies would deem the place "uninhabitable" because of the unknown risk that they might be sucked into a catastophic collapse. In my case, I've made my decision that I'm not going to stay and keep my children in this house, period.

    So, to be clear, I'm looking for another way to get my money back and void the lease. My first thought was that the landlord is required to exercise reasonable duty of care to keep the property reasonably safe for 'invitees' (tenants) and make it be known to them of any “non-obvious” dangers that he had knowledge of? Since he knew of the sinkhole, which I can prove (but only with a court order), and since I have no doubt that a judge would agree that the landlord has put us in "reasonably foreseeable danger," I believe we can make a good case for getting my money back and voiding the lease. If we have to go to that kind of trouble, however, we may as well just sue him for triple damages while we're at it.

    I'm just hoping there is some other way to 'compel' the owner to return my money and void the lease without having to pursue this in court. Does anyone have any non-legal advice as to how I should proceed? One poster suggested I take dated photos and compile a portfolio of damage. Should I present that to the owner? Again, I appreciate any thoughts you have.
  11. #11
    Zigner is offline Senior Member
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    Talk to the LL about your options for buying out of the lease...
  12. #12
    Banned_Princess is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by loopholed View Post
    Whether the home is "inhabitable" seems to be the first thought that crosses everyone's mind here. I appreciate your thoughts but since the home is (in my opinion) still functioning electrically and plumbing-wise, I have to find another way to void the lease, frankly. I don't know how to respond to the posters here who think the responsible decision is to continue to live in this sinkhole home simply because it's currently inhabitable. Most home buyers, realtors, and insurance companies would deem the place "uninhabitable" because of the unknown risk that they might be sucked into a catastophic collapse. In my case, I've made my decision that I'm not going to stay and keep my children in this house, period.
    well thats fine, but landlord is due damages from you breaking the lease. rent for all the months he cant re rent the place. I don't think PA caps that amount, and the LL has the duty to mitigate, but in a home such as you described who knows how long it will take to re rent.



    So, to be clear, I'm looking for another way to get my money back and void the lease.
    this is not going to happen. you have nothing.


    My first thought was that the landlord is required to exercise reasonable duty of care to keep the property reasonably safe for 'invitees' (tenants) and make it be known to them of any “non-obvious” dangers that he had knowledge of?
    you cant prove this guy knows the house has any "non obvious dangers" (which isn't even a real term.) he has taken care of the property and it is fully inhabitable, you haven't notified LL as to your concerns, you didn't give him a chance to investigate and fix whatever might be discovered. you haven't done any of the required steps one must take before flat out breaking the lease. you walked out on a 2 year lease, and until a replacement is found, you owe each and every month that place lays vacant.


    Since he knew of the sinkhole, which I can prove (but only with a court order),
    what court order is going to help you prove LL knows this property is a potential danger to anyone?


    and since I have no doubt that a judge would agree that the landlord has put us in "reasonably foreseeable danger,"
    you are the only one who thinks that, I think you are going to get banged over the head by the ll. hopefully to the tune of thousands and thousands of dollars in damages. DO you even have proof that there is an ACTUAL sink hole under the home? or are you just "reasonably sure" in your personal expertise in the area of sinkholes?


    I believe we can make a good case for getting my money back and voiding the lease. If we have to go to that kind of trouble, however, we may as well just sue him for triple damages while we're at it.
    YOU HAVE NO DAMAGES. LL HAS DAMAGES, YOU HAVE NONE.


    I'm just hoping there is some other way to 'compel' the owner to return my money and void the lease without having to pursue this in court.

    THERE IS'NT. GOOD LUCK THO, YOUR GOING TO NEED IT.

    Does anyone have any non-legal advice as to how I should proceed?
    Find out if the LL will accept a buyout. maybe offer him 3 months of rent, and your security deposit to let you out of the contract.

    One poster suggested I take dated photos and compile a portfolio of damage. Should I present that to the owner? Again, I appreciate any thoughts you have.
    how are you going to do that if you have moved out? these pictures are only going to save you from the LL claiming you damaged the house.
  13. #13
    loopholed is offline Junior Member
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    You got a love these forums, keep it coming Banned_Princess!
  14. #14
    Zigner is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by loopholed View Post
    You got a love these forums, keep it coming Banned_Princess!
    I'm glad someone appreciates accurate advice that they receive, even when it's not what they want to hear. Kudos.
  15. #15
    Searchertwin is offline Senior Member
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    Don't know why I didn't put it all together before.
    I don't know why you didn't. Florida sinkholes are a common feature of Florida's landscape. So one could say even you knew they exist and YOU should have asked.

    Since then, I've gone around the house and counted at least 150 different signs of sinkhole damage. Thing is: about 100 of them were recently painted, spackled, and/or covered up in some manner.
    All old homes and new ones will have some work done to cover damage.
    So you really can't say that painting, spackling and covering things were LL attempts to hide something rather than repairing.


    feel 100% certain that I could prove in court that the owner knew he was renting us a sinkhole home.
    You can't prove what owner knows unless you have something in black and white with signatures.

    and I feel uncertain about whether I am putting my childrens' lives at risk here. In the face of this uncertainty, I feel I have no choice but to be cautious and do the right thing for my family by moving out.
    You could also say LL knows about the pending hurricane and you blame him for not telling you. Your children lives are in danger regardless where you live, you will not find a safe place to live.

    How should I go about 'breaking' the last 18 months of the lease without this turning into a massive legal battle?
    If you feel that strong about your children safety, no one is stopping you from breaking your lease. Your main concern here is the money that you will still owe to LL for breaking the lease and you don't want that.

    Should I hire a lawyer to write him, asking for my money back and an end to the lease?
    On what grounds?

    Or should I try and work this out directly with him?
    As stated, buy out your lease. Or you break the lease. You do have those two options, for your children safety.

    It would mean financial disaster for him, plus why would he admit that he knowingly let us move in here without disclosing the situation?
    Are you?
    Will you tell him that you also know Florida is known for sinkholes, but you are using that excuse so you can break the lease without owing?
    Will you tell him, you won't buy out the lease, because you want money, you don't want to spend money?
    Why? Because it would be a financial disaster for you. So what is the difference?

    Remember, you are just as guilty:
    1) Florida is known for sinkholes
    2) YOU should have ask before
    renting
    Last edited by Searchertwin; 04-04-2012 at 02:55 PM.

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