Kissimmee hotel fire victims: Rent refund document requires no lawsuits

By Stephanie Bechara, Osceola County Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, January 05, 2017, 11:17 PM EST

Families impacted by the hotel fire feel like they're being taken advantage of. They say in order to get a rent refund, the hotel is making them sign a document that says they won't be able to file lawsuits against it.

Nilsa Nieves and her two children are one of the many families that lost what they called home during the Unno Boutique Hotel fire, two days before Christmas.

“It’s stressful. My little baby, she’s six years old and she’s always asking me, do we have a house? Where are we going to go? And right now it’s really hard,” she said.

To get reimbursed for the money paid for rent before the fire, hotel management is asking tenants to sign a document with a clause that says they won't be able to file any lawsuits, actions or claims against the hotel or vice versa.

The form is in English and because most of the families affected are Hispanic, Nieves says this was unfair to them and others like Emma Cruz and her five kids, who only speak Spanish.

“There’s a lot of people right now that they don’t speak English,” she explained. “There’s a lot of Spanish people. That they only speak Spanish.”

The hotel owner lives in Miami but his son-in-law who is helping manage the place did speak with us.

While he would not give us an interview on camera, he said that they’re returning people’s money in good faith and that this is just a procedure they have to follow. He also said families can make claims with the hotel’s insurance if they had renter’s insurance at the time.

Nieves says her family signed the form because they needed the money at the moment, however now feel like this may hurt them in the future.

“We still have stuff inside there. And when he signed it he didn’t realize that he signed everything we lost,” Nieves said.

We spoke with a local attorney who says that by signing this agreement, tenants are foregoing any opportunity to seek further action against the hotel, but that they could hold someone else accountable, like the arsonist.