Foreclosure crisis offers special problems for renters

After working a full day and tending to her three children, the last thing Latasha Jones felt like doing was making the rounds in her apartment complex to collect contributions for the building's water bill. But she had no choice -- the landlord, in foreclosure, had abandoned the building and stopped paying for it.

More than once over the past year, tenants of the 11-unit Liberty City complex had come home to find the water shut off. Eventually, they stopped paying rent and took the matter into their own hands, forming a kind of rudimentary condo association to manage the property at 1575 NW 69th St.

South Florida's foreclosure crisis is creating unique hardships for renters in some apartment buildings. Unlike tenants of condos and houses, apartment dwellers rely on landlords to collect garbage, keep up the premises and make repairs. The cost is included in the monthly rent.

So when a landlord enters foreclosure, those services often stop, leaving residents without vital utilities and sometimes in unsafe conditions. They may be forced to move. Low-income renters sometimes have nowhere to go.

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