RIVERVIEW, Fla. — A Riverview family was kicked out of their rental home after it was sold, and the new owner refused to honor the lease.
The Robinson family thought they were protected by the year-long lease after their Riverview rental was sold to a new owner late last year. They learned the hard way that a lease does not always protect tenants when rental property changes hands.
Documents from the prior owner show Oswald Robinson's rent was current and paid through February 2022.
On February 6, Oswald told ABC Action News the new owner showed up at his home and wanted him and his son out despite the lease that was good through June.
Then in March, Oswald came home from work and found an eviction notice taped to the garage door. Days later, he called 911 after he came home and found the new owner and a work crew inside the house.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff responded, and ABC Action News obtained the body cam video and report. Deputies found no court order of eviction, meaning the new owner had no legal right to enter Robinson's home.
One of the two deputies who handled the call advised the new owner to leave the property and obtain a court order if he wanted to evict Oswald and his adult son.
In late March, the new owner filed an "unlawful detainer" case against the Robinsons. It accused the family of living in the home illegally and essentially claimed they were "squatters."
"I am very angry about this," Oswald told ABC Action News. "This is what you would call life-changing."
Tom Difiore with Bay Area Legal services said an existing lease won't always protect tenants in these cases.
"The new owner is attempting to circumvent the lease and basically saying I am the new owner you need to leave," he said.
DiFiore explained that tenants can't afford to ignore any summons once the court gets involved. No response automatically results in a default order for the plaintiff.
"You cannot assume the landlord's case is so ridiculous the judge is going to throw it out," DiFiore said.
ABC Action News pulled the court documents, which showed that the judge granted possession of the property to the new owner after the Robinsons failed to file any response to the allegations that they were living in the property illegally and not paying any rent.
Oswald said he and his son left before deputies arrived to remove them from the house, creating a situation he called "very stressful especially living in this climate right now with the housing crisis."
For now, the family is staying in an Airbnb and doesn't know where they will live next.
We reached out to the new owner by phone and text. He refused to comment on the case.