PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) --A family of four from New Jersey struggled to get back on their feet months after a scary and violent crash left them homeless -- until they contacted 7 On Your Side.
It all started about six months ago, when a deadly crash literally happened on Carlos Cabrera's doorstep in Paterson. While he and his family were sleeping, an SUV hit a car before flipping over and plowing into their home.
"My first reaction was to call the police 911," Cabrera said.
The two-family home Cabrera was renting was badly damaged. He had to grab his 1-year-old twins, Kenneth and Kaitlyn, fearing a collapse as emergency responders evacuated the home.
"The police told me I can't live inside," Cabrera said.
They made it out safely but the building was declared unsafe, leaving the Cabreras with no home and without their security deposit.
The crash happened in early June -- just after Cabrera paid a full month's rent. He said he was owed $800 in pro-rated rent, plus his $1,200 security deposit -- a total of $2,000.
Month after month, Cabrera said he texted, pleading with the management company representative for his money.
In July, Cabrera asked, "When can I come for back rent?" The reply, "there's nothing to do is wait."
By August, he begged, "My families going through tough times and you as the owner are doing nothing." The landlord said he couldn't do anything, blaming the investigation.
"No one ever said I'll get the money to you the next month or the month after," said Cabrera.
When 7 On Your Side met Cabrera, he was desperate. Since the crash, he had moved twice, going from family member's home to family member's home. But he said his relatives' charity had run out.
So Eyewitness News called the landlord's attorney to plead his case. And days after our call, the lawyer came through -- two money orders in the young dad's hands.
"Muchas gracias, siete a tu lado, from me and mi familia," Cabrera said.
The landlord's attorney said his client had just bought the home shortly before the June crash. And, while he wasn't sure whether he owed this tenant money, he paid it as a courtesy.
The big takeaways here:
1) Before renting, get a signed lease. Cabrera was renting month-to-month and had no paperwork to prove he was owed a security deposit.
2) Always get a receipt if you pay the rent in cash.
3) Shop for renter's insurance. It normally covers hotel stays if you're displaced.