Veterans given 10 days to find new homes after owners cancel rental agreements

Source: Live 5
Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 7:59 PM EDT
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Rex Bills is a disabled veteran living at Suburban Lodge Extended Stay Hotel along Dorchester Road in North Charleston. After nearly three years without any issues, he now has less than two weeks to find a new home.

“He gave us a 10-day notice to move out, to leave. He said he is not honoring any of the contracts,” Bills said. “It’s not enough time to look for a place or even to put together enough money to move into a place. He is forcing us into situations, possibly homelessness again.”

In a letter dated May 13, 2021, residents were notified that the hotel was bought by B & V Hospitality, LLC on May 4 and will no longer operate as “an apartment or a long-term residential facility.”

“We are asking that all guest(s) make arrangement(s) to vacate the facility by May 26, 2021 as we are making arrangements to renovate the facility,” the letter reads.

“What am I going to do? Where am I going to go and how can he do this? To me it’s illegal. We are human beings,” Bills said. “I was homeless for a year and a half. I lived in the woods. If it wasn’t for the VA and Wounded Warriors, I wouldn’t be here.”

Suburban has been a reliable location for helping the homeless get off the streets. Under the previous owners, organizations like One80 Place, the Navigation Center, and the local Department of Veterans Affairs have been able help place people experiencing homelessness – especially veterans – in the rooms.

The VA says they have 25 veterans staying there right now. While the VA works in an advisory role in housing process, they say they’re working with local Housing and Urban Development officials to see what they can do to help these veterans.

Savannah Henderson is retired from the Navy. He says many of his neighbors are alone in the Lowcountry.

“About the letter, I don’t think it’s right. Because we pay our rent on time. We served our country and we deserve better than this,” Henderson said. “A lot of people don’t have anywhere to go.”

Henderson has a long medical history that has limited the range of motion in one of his hands which is unable to support much weight. He says even if he wanted to move, he wouldn’t be able to do it alone and certainly not by the end of the month.

“I can hardly tote anything. I have a breathing problem, I can hardly breathe,” Henderson said. “Ain’t too much I can do. I have to move at my own pace.”

Air Force veteran Irish Gentile is also looking for a new place.

“I have not found what I want yet,” Gentile said. “But to not be homeless, I am going to have to settle for something.”

According to the letter from the new owners, B & V Hospitality, LLC says they were unaware of the long-term contracts that many of these renters had with the previous owners. Instead of honoring those contacts, the letter says they will be terminated.

Gentile says there is more to this than an oversight of contracts during the ownership switch.

“I can’t believe they actually got into a big, long-term affair like this and didn’t know what was next as far as contracts are concerned. I know this is a prime spot near Interstate 526, the Coliseum is not far, and the new stadium is down the street. This would be a money maker if they redo it and get it rolling,” Gentile said. “They can still make their money and have enough time to let us be able to find another place without scrambling like a chicken with its head cut off.”

Veterans are just one population at the hotel, there are dozens of others who are paying month to month or have a negotiated contract with the previous owner. Marie Elena Roland is the head of the Navigation Center in downtown Charleston. She has several clients that were placed there.

“It’s heartbreaking to know we put some of these people up there just a year ago,” Roland said. “We are going to have to start over and we’re going to need help.”

She says the move took them completely by surprise.

The May 26 deadline can be extended to the end of the month, but residents say their rent will go up from around $850 a month to $525 a week. Tenants have contacted Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services to see if they can’t get more time to find a new place.

Live 5 News reached out to the property managers multiple times for comment and have not heard back.

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