MIAMI (CBS4) – The Coral Gables City Attorney is trying to determine if a family living in a million dollar home are squatters or victims after residents complained a family living in the home had no right to be there.
“I don’t even know them,” said the home’s owner Damian Echauri. “I haven’t seen their face before.”
But still Echauri says Robert Ramos, his wife Ana Alvarez and stepson Jonathan Alvarez have been living in his million dollar home in Coral Gables for the last six months without his permission.
“This is a trespassing matter not an eviction matter. How did they even get in? I mean the house was locked up,” said Echauri.
Ramos denies hey are squatters in the home on Sunset Drive just west of Cocoplum Circle, but he says otherwise.
“They feel that we’re squatters and we’re not,” said Roberto Ramos who lives in the home with wife and stepson.
The question of whether they are squatters was posed at Tuesday’s Coral Gables city commission meeting. Neighbors said the Ramos’ have cleaned the place up and even decorated for the holidays. City officials said that doesn’t mean those people have the right to be there.
“The commission voted unanimously that we should take all the legal steps we can to see that if there are squatters there, they leave, that they be removed,” city attorney Craig Leen said.
Leen said property records show the house as vacant, so the city decided to investigate further when it realized the property was in fact, occupied.
Ramos told CBS4 he stopped paying rent about 6 months ago. He believes he was the victim of fraud.
“The house is under foreclosure and it’s wrong for us to pay rent and the bank can come at any time and tell us we need to leave,” Ramos said.
Ramos says his stepson, Jonathan Alvarez, signed a one-year lease to rent the house for $1,500 a month more than a year ago. Many homes in the area are valued at more than a million dollars and rent can typically run more than $5,000 a month.
After turning over a copy of their leasing agreement, Echauri and the Coral Gables City Attorney, Craig Leen, believe the document may be fraudulent due to inconsistent looking signatures.
“At this point we have not seen a notarized lease with signatures that match the notarized signatures on another document, so what I’ve done is referred the matter to the police,” Leen said.
Leen added that this type of situation is not a widespread problem within the city, but is one his office and city leaders are taking very seriously.
“With even one instance we are going to take all of the action we can to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
To whom Ramos and his family were paying rent is still unknown.