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News Link • Housing

Collateral Damage: Tenant Victims of Foreclosed Properties

Whenever Michel Joseph wants to shower, cook or use the bathroom, he has to leave his Little Haiti apartment and drop in on a neighbor who has running water. Water has not run in Joseph’s derelict apartment since his landlord abandoned the four-unit building to foreclosure, and skipped town in November. The landlord’s absence led to a water shutoff, and for the past four months, Joseph has not been able to turn it back on because of a long-standing rule at the Miami-Dade Water & Sewer Department. That rule — which restricts renters from re-opening a closed account — has come under increased scrutiny as more landlords have fallen prey to the foreclosure crisis, some leaving tenants without basic utilities. “The tenants have become the hidden victims of the foreclosure crisis,” said Purvi Shah, a Florida Legal Services attorney who defends tenants of foreclosed properties. “There are hundreds of tenants in Miami-Dade County living in really serious conditions.”

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