Tenants' Rights in Eviction: When Do Landlords Go Too Far?

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What can you be evicted for? The most common reasons for eviction are unpaid rent or consistently late rent payments. Illegal activity on rental property or allowing people to live in an apartment when they are not covered by the terms of a lease agreement can also get a tenant booted. But burning your dinner in the oven? That's why one 75-year-old woman is being ordered to leave her Atlanta apartment.

Retha Scott fell asleep as she was cooking a meal at home, causing the food to burn. Next thing she knew, she received an eviction notice from the management of her senior living complex, Hairston Lake Apartments, saying that the incident proves that she's a danger to other tenants, CBS Atlanta reported. There were no injuries as a result of the incident, no other units were damaged and it was unclear what, if any, damage Scott's own unit suffered.

"Nothing I do is right. It seems that there's always something they want to talk to me about," Scott told CBS Atlanta of the complex's management. "I don't have anywhere here to go. I don't have no people here. I don't have no family here. ... Nothing was done to intentionally set this apartment on fire."

Scott said she offered to use only the microwave for cooking to settle the problem with her complex, and she even hired an outside agency to cook meals for her daily. The agency disconnected her stove so it could no longer be used, according to CBS Atlanta. But the complex is still asking for her to leave.

A representative of Hairston Lake refused to grant an on-camera interview to the TV station, but the DeKalb County Housing Authority released a statement, saying: "Please be assured that we are actively working with [Scott] on a quick resolution to her concerns."

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Tenants' Rights in Eviction: When Do Landlords Go Too Far?

A 75-year-old woman reportedly received an eviction notice from her senior housing complex in New Jersey because she hung American flags from the banister of her balcony. The housing authority said that there's a provision in tenants' leases prohibiting anything from being hung from balconies for safety reasons.

"I understand that's their rules, but I'm still sticking to my Constitutional rights," said Dawn Paulus. Read more.

A Brooklyn landlord who claimed that her tenant hadn't paid rent for a few months was trying to evict him, but her case was caught up in the court system. So in the meantime, she tried something else to get him to leave: shame him.

On the front of the building where the tenant was living, the landlord mounted a sign that read: "My tenant Fred Gallipoli didn't pay his rent for three (3) months, almost (4) months!!" Read more.

When Capt. Michael Clauer returned home from active duty in Iraq, he discovered that his Texas house didn't belong to him anymore. His homeowners association foreclosed on his home because his family was late on their $800 fees.

To make matters worse, the HOA sold the $300,000 home for only $3,500 to a bidder who then flipped the house to another buyer. Read more.

A 60-year-old woman was evicted from her apartment when she decorated her doorway for Easter -- with a giant pyramid made of Peeps marshmallow candies. Her landlord said the display was blocking common areas -- a violation of the woman's lease -- and she was asked to remove it. She didn't.

The case went to court, but a jury went against the evicted woman and determined that she owed a lot of money because of the incident. Read more.

On her 98th birthday, Mary Kantorowski got a big surprise from her eldest son, Peter. But it wasn't a present -- it was an eviction notice. Peter Kantorowski, 71, who owned Mary's home, said his mother would be better off living in a nursing home. He explained that he worried about her safety and security, and is simply looking out for his mother's best interests.

"I don't like the way she's living over there," he said. "I'm not throwing her out on the street. At her age, at 98, I'm sure that she should be with people of her peers." Read more.

Evicting a 63-year-old from her home wouldn't normally require an entire SWAT team to assist -- but in this case, it did. Occupy Denver protesters were surrounding Sahara Donahue's Idaho Springs, Colo., home when officials showed up to evict her. It was reported that one of the protesters had a concealed weapon, and the SWAT team was brought in. What ensued was chaos. Read more.

When is a foreclosure eviction not an eviction? Easy answer: When the person you're trying to evict doesn't live there.

Angela Martinez of Providence, R.I., was helping her 20-year-old autistic son out of the house when officials barged in with a foreclosure notice and started packing up their things. But Martinez wasn't the person they were looking for. She was renting the home from New York-based landlord Pedro Pena. He was the guy they were after. Read more.

A woman who lived at a public housing complex in the Bronx borough of New York City took it upon herself to mount security cameras in her building. The neighborhood was known for crime, and the woman said she just wanted to protect her family. But the housing authority issued her an eviction notice, saying she breached her lease agreement by installing the cameras.

"There has been all over the news people getting robbed -- burglaries," said the woman, who only identified herself as Rebecca. "I need to provide safety for my family." Read more.

A 101-year-old woman in Detroit was evicted from the home she lived in for nearly 60 years -- all because her 65-year-old son failed to pay the mortgage.

Everything that Texana Hollis and her son owned ended up in dumpsters as the devastated woman was ushered out of her home. Her son, Warren, said he ignored repeated late notices and eviction warnings, and he kept it from his mother because "I didn't want to worry her. ... I was just so sure it wasn't going to happen." Read more.

A British couple was told by the property manager of their rental that they were going to be evicted because of a neighbor's complaints that their 2-year-old daughter was too loud. Nicola Baylis and Tim Richold said that their child was just, well, acting like one, crying and playing with toys.

"I can't believe we're going to be made homeless because of a toddler," Baylis said. "She's just being a toddler and has no idea how loud she's being." Read more.

One day Rita James of Atlanta started receiving notices that she owed a company five years of back rent on the home she owned. Unbeknownst to her, the county auctioned off her home to a creditor to make up for a tax bill that went unpaid for 18 years -- but the bill wasn't even hers.

James landed in court, where she discovered that when she threw away a tax bill sent to her address -- but in someone else's name -- it tipped off a long saga that nearly ended in her being forced out of her home. Read more.

Good Samaritans' compassion saved 103-year-old Vita Lee from being evicted from her Atlanta home of more than five decades. Lee and her 83-year-old daughter were scheduled to be evicted, but when sheriff's deputies showed up to carry out the task, they couldn't go through with it.

A community activist said that Lee had been battling Deutsche Bank, her lender, for years, looking for a way to able to stay in her home. Read more.

Jim and Danielle Earl, and their nine children, were foreclosed on and forced out of their home in Simi Valley, Calif. But in the same week that the home's new owners were expected to move in, they hired a locksmith to open the doors, and they moved back in.

The couple said they worried about their ability to find another home that would suit the needs of their large family, which is why they returned to the home they were kicked out of. But their lawyer also said that they were foreclosed on illegally. Read more.

The National Consumer Law Center found in a recent report that because of outdated state and local laws, people were losing their homes over as little as $400. Local governments can seize and sell a home if the owner falls behind on property taxes and fees, and sometimes those unpaid feed were only $400. Read more.

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Attorney Joshua Davis, who agreed to represent Scott after hearing of her case, said Hairston Lake is violating her rights. "It's just absurd," he said. "This woman is elderly, she's 75, and the fact that she is of that age -- they should give some type of accommodation to the fact that these things happen. ... And specifically to what they're claiming, that she's so-called 'endangering' the other residents through the activities of cooking -- that has now been removed."

So does Scott's landlord have a real case against her? In most states, a landlord must give a tenant written notice of a potential lease violation, and the tenant must be given ample time to correct it before the landlord can initiate eviction proceedings, according to RentLaw.com. It's unclear whether Scott's complex alerted her of potential violations before issuing her an eviction notice -- but it's clear that Scott has taken steps to correct the problem.

And as NOLO.com points out, there are only a few circumstances under which landlords can evict tenants without giving them time to correct lease violations: if tenants have repeatedly violated a significant clause in the lease, continuously failed to pay rent on time, seriously damaged a rental unit, or engaged in illegal activity on the premises. A landlord cannot have a tenant physically removed from an apartment without a court order to do so.

If you believe you have been wrongfully evicted and want to fight it in court, hire a lawyer and be able to produce your lease agreement, any correspondence to and from your landlord, receipts of rental payments, photos and any other evidence that can prove your case. In cases that involve discrimination, you should alert your local Department of Housing and Urban Development branch. Local housing authorities are required to investigate claims of discrimination against tenants.

CBS Atlanta 46

See more:
Occupy Our Homes Builds a Reputation in Battling Foreclosures
Tenant Won't Pay Rent? Ways for Landlords to Deal With Deadbeat Renters
101-Year-Old Woman Evicted in Foreclosure

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