Hotel owner and tenant in court over right to stay

POSTED: 03/1/16 2:21 PM

St. Maarten News – In October 2011, former radio personality Lydia Henderson launched a book about her personal journey through life entitled Lydia – From Heterosexual to Bisexual to Lesbian to God. Yesterday, she was in court to fight an eviction order by Louis Fortuno, owner of the See Breeze Hotel in Cay Hill where she has been living since 2011. This afternoon, the court will rule on the case, unless parties manage to reach an amicable agreement in the meantime.

Pending his ruling, Judge Sander van Rijen asked the hotel owner to restore electricity and air conditioning to Henderson’s room. Fortuno said that he would do this, and that Henderson would have access to her room.

The dispute begins with a letter Fortuno sent to his long-term hotel guest on November 25 of last year, telling Henderson that she has to move out by February 12.

Attorney Christiaan de Jong told the court that his client had been renting at Sea Breeze for more than four years and that there had been some incidents. “There is an accusation of not being properly dressed and there were issues with parking, but no legal reason for terminating her rent.”

The hotel owner shut down the power to Henderson’s room and yesterday morning it was padlocked, so she could not get in.

Fortuno told the court that he has been managing the hotel for the past 26 years and that he’d never had a client who took him to court. He said that he could not put up any longer with “one guest disturbing the peace for sixty others.”

Fortuno denied that there is a rental agreement, because he operates a hotel, not an apartment complex. He said that Henderson had stopped paying after February 12 and that he therefore had shut down electricity. “My guests have free electricity, internet, cable and water,” he said. “If they don’t pay I cannot pay my suppliers anymore.”

On Tuesday he gave Henderson a letter saying she had to be out the next day and that he would padlock her room if she didn’t go. He also noted that attorney De Jong had called him a criminal and said that his hotel was a dump. He provided a picture to the court showing Henderson “stark naked” in front of her room.

Henderson later explained this situation to the court: “I was wearing a sports bra and boxer shorts. It was hot in my room, because the electricity was cut off. Somebody came to my door and I opened; when I saw others I went back inside.”

De Jong maintained that there is in fact a rental agreement and that his client is entitled to protection. For an eviction, the hotel ought to go through the rent committee, he said. “She should not be locked out because there are no rent arrears. Mr. Fortuno has taken the law into his own hands; that is inhuman and below standards.”

Fortuno showed that he has a heart at the end of the proceedings. “This cannot continue,” he said. “I want this to end. But if Lydia needs an extension of one or two months to find another place, I will give it to her, as long as she respects my establishment.”

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