Veteran forced to leave home now faces further eviction

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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) – It’s back to the drawing board for veteran Rex Bills after only a month of living in his new apartment.

Bills was forced out of his last home at the Suburban Lodge Extended Stay in North Charleston in May when new owners took over and decided to change the business model.

Bills’ case manager set him up at Aster Place in West Ashley. Her one-bedroom apartment was a significant improvement over the hotel-like dwelling in Suburban. However, after only a month in Aster Place, Bills found a folded piece of paper containing an eviction notice.

“I got here and I finally thought, ‘I’m home,’ Bills said. ‘Again it’s a new owner taking over. The same has happened at Suburban and again they are moving the veterans, the people in section 8, they are moving us all, so where do we go now?

Bills uses a housing program called HUD-VASH, which is a collaborative assistance program between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs. HUD-VASH vouchers are used by more than 104,000 veterans across the country to pay for basic housing.

Aster Place’s new property manager, Stacy Conley, said the company is moving away from accepting any type of housing assistance voucher. She says the previous owner was struggling to raise money for the Housing Authority.

“The problem is that the Housing Authority / VA VASH / Section 8 are seriously behind in their rent payments and, as a result, evictions are being filed against residents in their program,” Conley wrote in an email. to Live 5. “Anyone on a current lease agreement who pays their rent can stay at Aster Place until their lease expires.

Conley alleges that the Housing Authority responsible for paying part of a tenant’s rent failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, most of it to the previous landlord. She says they have agreed to allow current tenants to stay past their lease dates as long as the Housing Authority starts paying its share of the rent.

Housing attorney Nicole Paluzzi of Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services says that’s not how a contract works. Bills’ lease extends until next year, and the law requires the new owner to honor his lease. His eviction notice says he didn’t pay the rent, but he did pay his share of the rent. The rest comes from his housing voucher, which Paluzzi says is withheld by the new owner.

“Essentially, the new landlord is not honoring the existing agreement and not carrying out the documents he would need to receive funds from the housing authority for these good tenants,” Paluzzi said. “With the Housing Authority, there are additional documents for new homeowners as they need to be approved to be recipients of HUD money, but it’s not complicated. These are just new property papers and that is it.

Conley says they don’t want to take on new bonds and won’t sign any new contracts. She says she verbally authorized the Housing Authority to make payments, but Paluzzi says they need it in writing.

“What we would like to do is have the option of having a notice as to who will represent this owner so that we can speak with their lawyer and explain the circumstances to them, as this is something that can be resolved very simply an once we’ve set it up. the competent authority, ”Paluzzi said. “You cannot discriminate at the source of the payment. “

In the Suburban Extended Stay case, approximately 30 ex-combatants were displaced. Paluzzi was also involved in this situation. She can’t say exactly how many people have contacted them about Aster Place, but says that’s more than the Suburban case.

Meanwhile, Bills feels like he’s caught in the middle of a battle between the new owners and the Housing Authority.

“It almost makes me want to go back to my tent in the woods because I didn’t have to take care of it there,” Bills said. “It’s too much politics. We let politics rule. Maybe that’s why we have so many homeless people. They don’t want to deal with contracts.

Paluzzi says they hope to settle this issue amicably, but says it could very well end up there. As for Bills, even if he wins his case, his lease will not be renewed and in less than a year he will be looking for new accommodation. Again.

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