NOTE: All the names in this article have been changed to protect their identities.
Confused and afraid, Bethany Strout initially sought our services for an eviction notice she had received. While resolving the eviction situation, she was also served with another lawsuit from her landlord, a collection matter for unpaid rent and court costs.
The second case severely upset and stressed Bethany because her landlord was seeking a total of $3,370.00. She was a nervous wreck and had difficulty understanding that this would not affect her ability to obtain her social security benefits (SSI) for her Autism. We advised her to take pictures of her room before she moved out. We also informed her that because SSI was her only source of income, she was judgement proof.
Bethany was paying $300 a month for a 10 by 15 bedroom that had no special amenities. When she was unable to pay rent, she reached out to the Richland/Lexington Special Needs Board, who helped her tremendously. Once the landlord realized the Board was paying her rent, she verbally increased the rent from $300 to $650, by directly communicating with Bethany’s case manager. When the landlord realized that the $650 was taxed, she demanded $725 to compensate her for the portion that went to taxes. The Board paid her a total of $4,000 before declining to pay any more rent because of the fluctuations and increase in rent.
After filing an Answer and a long delay due to Covid-19, we had a hearing. Bethany’s case manager testified to the $4,000 that was paid to the landlord and the threats the landlord made to take Bethany to a homeless shelter if the amounts were not paid. She explained how her agency worked and how the agency was allotted only a fixed amount of money.
South Carolina Legal Services argued that there was never proper written notice for the rent increase, that the more than doubling of rent was unconscionable, and that the landlord, knowing that Bethany was judgment proof, was only bringing this case against my client to harass and impede on the client’s ability to get public housing. We further explained that, had the rent stayed at $300, the amount paid by the Board would have had my client current, up through April 2020.
The judge ruled in favor of Bethany by dismissing the action. Furthermore, the judge found that Bethany owed her landlord absolutely nothing.