‘It was just disgusting’: Future tenant refused to sign lease, property manager kept large deposit

ORLANDO, Fla. — When a local man lost $1,000 just trying to rent a home he never moved into, he turned to Action 9 for help.

Trying to rent a townhome in College Park turned into a showdown Robert Bonnewell never expected.

“And so, you know, I was out $1,000.” That’s how much Bonnewell said he lost when he refused to sign a lease because of what he found inside the home on the day he was supposed to move in.

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“The bathrooms were filthy. There was urine on the toilets. There were dead roaches and it was just disgusting,” Bonnewell said.

When he first saw the property, Bonnewell said it looked like someone had been kicked out and nothing was done to clean and restore it.

He claims the rental agency, HD Realty in Longwood, told him the home would be thoroughly cleaned before he moved in.

Bonnewell went back to look at the home right before he was supposed to sign the lease.

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“And that’s when I was led in and nothing had been done.” Bonnewell said the home was still filthy.

He took pictures so he could prove that the home was not ready to rent.

He claims HD Realty said he had to sign the lease at that moment and move in or he would lose his $1,000 deposit.

According to Bonnewell, when he refused to sign the lease and kept taking pictures, things took a turn.

“He said that he had called 911, and I was thinking to myself, ‘For

taking pictures of a dirty condo?’” Bonnewell said.

Bonnewell was out $1,000 and no longer had a townhouse to rent.

Action 9 has investigated HD Realty before. Both times involved rental disputes in which consumers claimed the company failed to honor its agreements. Since then, HD Realty has improved its rating at the Better Business Bureau to A-plus with no complaints. Todd Ulrich did find many negative reviews online.

Real estate experts say it’s critical to include in writing any rental conditions you’re making before signing anything.

“Tenants have got to say in their lease, ‘Landlord, if you do not put me in possession on day one, on the day that I expect to move in, the lease is broken. You have to return my security deposit,’” said real estate attorney Karen Wonsetler.

Ulrich contacted HD Realty. The company didn’t respond to emails, and by phone, a manager only said a quick, “No comment. Goodbye.”

“I think what they did was they just took (my) money,” Bonnewell said.

Bonnewell is sending his complaint to the Florida Real Estate Commission. That’s the agency that regulates licensed property managers.

Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.