Couple claims they paid $6,000 for living in apartment for 15 minutes

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — An Orange County couple claims they lost thousands of dollars after trying to rent an apartment they never moved into. That’s the penalty they had to pay when they cancelled the lease an hour after signing it.

They turned to Action 9 consumer investigator Todd Ulrich to get results.

Alexis Thomas and Darien Ramos say attempts to rent their first apartment turned into a $6,000 nightmare, even though they never spent a single night at The Tiffany at Maitland West.

“It was our first time. We were nervous and it was a shock,” Ramos said.

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According to the couple, they liked the one-bedroom model and paid $1,000 in prorated rent and fees to move the following month.

At the time, they say managers could not assign an actual unit. But the day they signed the lease and moved in, the sight of their apartment triggered big problems.

“It was flipped, the model was completely flipped around,” Thomas said.

She said the furniture they bought for the model didn’t fit in that apartment and that they found unexpected wear and tear in the unit.

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“The only thing we did was turn on the lights in the bathroom looked around turned off the lights and walked out,” Ramos said.

He said Tiffany apartment managers only offered bigger units at rents they could not afford, so they asked to cancel.

“We were very polite, (asked) can we work something out?” Ramos said he asked managers.

Instead, the couple heard the lease had been signed and its termination clause was very clear: they had to pay to walk away.

The lease break and notice fees totaled more than $5,000 and, if not paid, they faced another 40% collection fee. Fearing a bad credit report, they paid.

“So, you’re being charged $5,000 for living in the unit 15 minutes?” Ulrich asked.

“Yes, correct,” Thomas replied.

“Without furniture?” Ulrich asked.

“Yes,” Thomas said.

Plus, they lost the $1,000 already paid.

Ulrich showed their lease termination fees to real estate attorney Barry Miller.

“I think that amount, when they never even moved in, is absurd. I doubt a court would say that’s fair,” Miller said.

Miller thinks the couple has good grounds to challenge what happened. But, in general, a signed lease can’t be undone, even the same day. So, it’s important for consumers to verify what they are renting first.

“You want to see it beforehand, exactly what unit it’s going to be before you sign,” Miller said.

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Action 9 contacted NM Residential, the company that manages the complex. Ulrich was told it can’t discuss specifics but it’s now working with the couple on a resolution.

NM Residential is rated A-plus at the Better Business Bureau.

Thomas said she’d like to know, “Can we get our money back?”

Apartment leases can be high-risk if there’s anything left to chance. Penalties can be unforgiving. It’s important for prospective renters to pick out a unit, inspect it and get that in writing before signing.

Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.