Reporting Michele Gillen
MIAMI – (CBSMiami.com) – For two months, Michelle Pinder has been desperate to get rid of the strangers living in her childhood home. Pinder inherited the house after her mother passed away. On the eve of the sale, realtors were surprised to see people living in the Miami home – a man and a woman claiming someone else had leased them the property.
Pinder along with her brother Bill haven’t been able to inspect the home since the strangers moved in. On Tuesday evening, armed with a court order, she and her brother Bill finally made their way inside their home.
“Well, I would like to take pictures of the house and I would like them to leave,” Bill Pinder told CBS4’s Chief Investigative Reporter Michele Gillen.
The Pinders have told police and now a judge that their keys to the front door no longer work — the locks have been changed — and nobody is paying them any rent.
Tuesday night they inspected what court records show is their house.
Bill Pinder documented problems with a camera.
“Look a broken window,” Bill Pinder pointed out. “Looks like somebody has been tampering with the electricity.”
Soon, the woman who is living there, Ibet Flores Castano, emerges with her child in tow. She has claimed to police that she paid cash to a man who rented her house. CBS4 has tried to find that man, but all roads lead to dead ends.
Just last week, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Ellen Leesfield granted the Pinders permission to check the conditions of the house and take pictures.
“Ms. Pinder says you are living in her house without authority,” Judge Leesfield told Flores Castano at last week’s hearing.
However, the judge essentially declared both sides victims – taking at face value that Flores Castano had been duped by someone who allegedly rented her house. The judge gave her 40 days to get out and is allowing the family to check conditions of the house each week.
“I want to inspect my property, it’s real simple. That’s all,” said Bill Pinder.
The Pinders asked CBS4 News cameras to accompany them on their inspection, but that wasn’t welcome news.
Flores Castano tells CBS4 News the cameras can’t come in.
Inside, according to the Pinders, there’s no running water, just several water buckets.
Miami Dade Water and Sewer removed the water meter after being notified by the Pinders that strangers were living in the house.
Incredibily to the Pinders, the judge asked them to consider turning the water on while the strangers live there- if they were given a deposit.
“I’m just angry number one, I feel so violated, that this is my house and I can’t even go into the front door of this house,” Michelle Pinder said.
The owners took pictures of that broken window, now filled with cardboard, just above the bed in the child’s room. Brother and sister leave wondering if their nightmare will ever be over.
As for the water issue, the judge asked the legal property owners to help turn the water back on, however, Michelle Pinder doesn’t want to do anything that would facilitate the strangers to continue staying in her house. The judge’s suggestion is in stark contrast to action the City of Coral Gables is taking to fight this kind of problem. When the water is turned off there, the city deems the property unfit to live in and give the residents just 10 days to get out.