KCTV5 intervenes in eviction case that never should have happened
Posted by Chris Oberholtz, Multimedia Producer - email
OLATHE, KS (KCTV) -
The fight to keep a roof over his family's head invaded every waking moment of Kevin White's life.
The Olathe father, who works the night shift, used to enjoy the afternoons he spent watching son, Micah, while his wife, Hannah White, went to her job.
Worry and concern have taken over those once happy times.
"We've got a 2-year-old running around and you know the possibility of losing our home is hanging over our heads," Kevin White said.
The crisis began July 2012 a few days after White put two money orders, one for $154 and one for $500 into the rent drop box at the Ridgeview Apartments. It's something he's been doing for the past two years.
"We got a late notice. They stick them on our door. It's an orange late notice and it says the rent hasn't been paid for this month. $654 dollars," White said. "Pay it now plus the $30 late fee."
White assured his wife that he had definitely paid the rent, and then made a visit to the apartment complex office with money order receipts in hand.
That was when he learned there had been a break-in; someone had stolen nine payments from the drop box, including White's $500 money order. White says management told him not to worry about that overdue rent notice.
All was well until August rolled around and a new late notice appeared on White's door. Once again, he took his July receipts to the property manager and got another reprieve.
"It's embarrassing," White said. "It really is."
White says the same thing happened every month from July 2012 until March 2013, when he got served with a lawsuit. Ridgeview Apartments was evicting his family for missing that July rent payment.
"I feel like I am disappointing them," White said. "You know because at the end of the day it's my responsibility to pay the rent."
A desperate White reached out to KCTV5 for help to resolve a situation he couldn't fix on his own.
Leland Cox is a managing attorney with Kansas Legal Aid, a group that advises and sometimes defends low-income Kansans dealing with housing issues.
"Certainly I think the tenant had a valid defense here," Cox said.
KCTV5 told Cox about the drop box break-in and asked whether White should be on the hook for the stolen rent.
"If the lease doesn't address the issue, I think the rent is paid once it goes into the drop box," Cox said. "After that it's on the landlord."
Cox also expressed concern over a police report uncovered by KCTV5 that was filed by Ridgeview Apartments. It shows that management had discovered the theft on July 3, but waited six days, until July 9, to alert the authorities. During that time, White's $500 money order had been forged and cashed.
"If the landlord knew about one day later, you got to wonder why they didn't report it right away, even if they weren't sure how many checks or money orders might have been missing," Cox said.
Hoping to stop what Cox had deemed a wrongful eviction, KCTV5 investigative reporter Stacey Cameron visited Ridgeview Apartments office to speak with the property manager but was turned away.
"Oh, unfortunately what we have to do is refer you to our home office," a complex employee told Cameron. "I'm happy to give you that number."
By phone, corporate spokesperson Sandi Scott refused to speak about the White's housing and legal situation.
"I'm not allowed to talk about that," Scott said.
Cameron informed Scott that KCTV5 would be at the Johnson County Courthouse with White on the morning of their eviction hearing. When the case was called before the judge, an attorney for Ridgeview Apartments announced the complex was dismissing the case and would stop trying to collect the stolen rent from White.
Even though this Olathe family got the happy ending it deserved, Cox says this case should never have been filed.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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