MIAMI – A South Florida homeowner was threatened with arrest after trying to force strangers out a house that she owns.
It's an extremely tough situation for Patricia Guerrero, as court time is limited and evictions are not being enforced due to the coronavirus crisis.
She told Local 10 News' Jeff Weinsier that the house absolutely belongs to her, and that she has not authorized anyone to live there.
“It is shocking,” Guerrero said, “I have never expected this to be even possible. It never crossed my mind, and I want the public to know.”
According to property records, Guerrero bought the house for $172,000 in 2018.
She fixed it up and briefly rented it out, but decided to sell the home.
With a buyer in place, money was already in escrow.
What Guerrero didn't know is that someone had already moved into the home; a woman and her family.
"Someone is just there with a fake lease," she said. "She refuses to leave the house."
Guerrero did call the police but said, "the police hands are tied today because the moratorium says they cannot evict anyone."
Weinsier approached the woman living in the home, but she refused to speak and even called City of Miami Police.
The woman, who Local 10 believes is named Ederlin, refused to show Guerrero her lease.
"I’m stuck with a moratorium that includes squatters, includes fake leases, includes anything," said Guerrero.
Guerrero said she’s been to the home many times, trying to negotiate with the woman to leave, but Enderlin wound up calling the police on her.
"I was told by the police officer in the matter that if even I sit in front of the house in the street, I was harassing her and they were going to take me to jail," Guerrero said. "And they showed me the handcuffs."
Her hope now is that the Miami Police Department's Economic Crimes Unit will investigate.
The officers who responded and threatened to arrest Guerrero said that it was a civil matter.
Miami-Dade renters have a few protections at the county, state, and federal levels. For starters, the Miami-Dade Police Department has said officers will not enforce eviction orders while the county is under a state of emergency.
In addition, the Florida Supreme Court has advised the state's clerks of court to stop issuing writs of possession, which is the final document in an eviction that police can use to remove a tenant, until April 17.
Unfortunately for Guerrero, that leaves her with very few options.
"I have to wait until they open the courts on May 29," she said. "I'm suing her. She has a fake lease with my name. Someone who claims to have my name gave her the lease."
Guerrero said she lost the sale of the home due to this situation, and she's out $10,000 as well.
"The money of the new owner was in the bank to be transferred to me Friday, but we couldn’t do it because she refused to leave," Guerrero said.
Ederlin claims to be paying rent to a landlord, but refused to share any additional information.