I live in Connecticut and have a small condo in Florida. I recently had water damage in my front bedroom and foyer from a leak from the water heater in the second floor unit. The lady in the unit upstairs reported it to the management, phoned to apologize and had a cleaning company come clean our units. Since I live in Connecticut, I was not aware that the law in Florida is that everyone pays for their own damage regardless of who caused it, so I assumed that her insurance company was responsible for payment. Her cleaning company called me after the job and said I was responsible for $3,500. When I told him he was way overpriced, he hung up on me. He then sent my insurance company a bill for $6,400. They told me the bill was excessive, so I requested an estimate from another cleaning business which was $2,000. We offered to pay that amount, but he said he wanted to deal with my insurance and refused. He keeps saying that he was scammed and will not negotiate a reasonable settlement. He has placed a lien on my unit even though I never hired him and he never told us what he was going to charge. What would you suggest we do? -- Vinnie from Hartford, Conn.
Sounds like a headache! It's never easy to own property in another state. Start by calling the neighbor who hired the cleaning company and find out what the bid was for cleaning the unit. Get a copy of the estimate. I am concerned because you seem to have given permission for the cleaning to occurr which would make you responsible for paying for that service. Your insurance company should cover this event, so I would call them and continue the discussion about taking care of this claim. You may have to hire a lawyer who specializes in condo law (they have those in Florida) to help you get this straightened out. I would push your insurance company to pay because now your title is clouded with the lien. The lesson here is: don't have anyone do work in your house unless you know up front in writing what the charges will be.
I was sentenced in St. Lucie County Florida on burglary of a dwelling, which is a felony 2 charge punishable by up to 15 years. I agreed with the state attorney that I be sentenced under a two-year capped plea agreement. I received the bottom of the guideline (what I scored out to) 21.75 months in state prison, followed by two years drug offender probation. In the plea agreement, the state and I agreed that I was not to be placed on probation following my time served. In Florida, there is no such thing as pro bono work; lawyers all charge at least $500 or more for any case, even public defender's offices. I am in need of a lawyer and someone to help me lift this probation so I do not go back to prison. -- Joseph from Port St. Lucie, Fla.
The public defender is there for any defendant who cannot afford private counsel. Since it sounds like this is you, the public defender's services should be available to you. I do believe they make an effort to collect fees from clients who have some income, but you should discuss this with them. Most pro bono services are not for criminal cases. You should contact the public defender's office in your community and inquire about representation. That is what they are there for.
(Jackie Glass is a lawyer and former district court judge from Las Vegas, Nev. Submit your legal questions to Jackie by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter at @theJudgeGlass. This column is being provided for informational purposes only. It may not be relied upon by you as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.)