Evictions delayed as nonprofits look to help with back rent

Updated: Sep. 3, 2020 at 11:49 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) -Days before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a moratorium on evictions, Tony Yachini received an eviction notice.

“I don’t know where to go. I have no place to go to. There’s no money to move,” Yachini said. “If they force me out, I’d have to leave everything and become homeless.”

Yachini lost two of his three jobs because of the coronavirus and is just now getting back to work. During that time, he racked up a rent bill for $937.19. He says the manager at the Crickentree Apartment complex told him it was out of their hands.

“It was such a surprise,” Yachini said. “I even handed them a check Monday morning and said ‘How are things?’ and ‘Do I have to start worrying about things?’ and the manager looked me in the eye and said, ‘I don’t think it will be a problem at all’.”

A spokesperson for the property management company, Darby Development, would not address the specific case but said they have been working with tenants to create repayment plans. They did not indicate how many eviction notices the company has authorized.

The one received by Yachini was approved on Aug. 28 and the eviction moratorium was announced several days later. They say they are still willing to work with tenants and will not break any laws.

Yachini is not the only one facing an eviction scare.

Terri Stith rents from a different company in Summerville. She says she was forced to sign an agreement to leave her home or face eviction.

“I don’t want to move but I don’t want to have an eviction on my record,” said Stith, who is worrying about her credit score. “I have been having problems finding a place.”

She got sick during the pandemic and could not go to work, resulting in at least two months’ worth of rent she could not pay. She says late fees have effectively doubled her missed payments and she now owes more than $7,000.

“It’s unfair,” Stith said talking about the late fees. “I make decent money, but it’s out of control. They are not looking at the fact that I got sick, that there’s a virus going around, and I’m still working, trying to stay safe and now I have to leave.”

The CDC’s moratorium on evictions may apply to both of these situations, but it only lasts until the end of the year and it does not clear missed payments. For people living on a tight budget, paying down that debt could be next to impossible.

Luckily, there are resource available.

SC Thrive is a state-wide nonprofit with a program designed to help people stay in their homes. The Rental Assistance Program is a one-time a payout directly to property companies of up to $1,500 for qualified applicants.

“We have had over 3,000 people reach out to us to apply for the program and we are looking to help many more. Funds are still available,” said Stephanie McGuire, Chief Community Relations Officer at SC Thrive.

If you’re struggling with rent, McGuire encourages everyone to apply. You can find more details and the qualifications here.

Another resource available is through the Palmetto Community Action Partnership. They have several funds for helping with rent, bills, and back rent caused by the coronavirus. You can find more on their programs here.

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