Five years ago, Charlotte Hart allowed a tenant on her property. For two years, she said, he paid on time. Then his payments came late or sporadically. In December 2019, she said, he paid half rent, and hasn't paid a dime since.
“I've tried to work with him,” Hart said. “Sometimes he'd pay me $40 or $50 at a time. Now he hasn't paid anything, and he's 7 1/2 months behind in rent.”
As a month-to-month tenant, Hart said, she gave him 90 days’ notice, and then took him to court. It was dismissed on a technicality – the date for a late fee to be assessed was on the fourth of the month instead of the sixth – but she's scheduling another hearing as soon as possible.
The COVID-19 closures have slowed down court business and empowered her tenant, she said.
“He told me I couldn't evict him now,” she said.
A joint effort by Gov. John Carney and Attorney General Kathleen Jennings announced July 1 allows eviction filings to resume, but they have been stayed to allow Justice of the Peace Courts to determine whether a court-supervised mediation or alternative dispute resolution is needed.
Hart said she realizes there are cases where COVID-19 has impacted a renter, but this isn't one of them.
“It isn't like he doesn't have money,” she said.
Hart said she knows her tenant has money coming in because he told her he got a $1,200 stimulus check and his wife gets disability payments. On top of that, she said, he is renting out a room in the trailer to another couple.
“I know that because the guy renting the room came to my house and told me so,” she said. “My tenant has no reason not to pay rent.”
At $800 a month, Hart said, she believes the rent is reasonable. She owns about 30 acres of property off Harts Road, named after her family who have owned property in the Route 24/Angola corridor for decades. Hart said she originally put the trailer on her land for her granddaughter, who kept up the property with landscaping and hardscaping.
Since her latest tenant moved in, however, a paved walkway has been torn up, and the yard is scattered with trash and cars. Hart said cars are in and out of the property at all hours of the day and night, and for someone who says he has no money, there are plenty of four-wheelers, remote-control cars, and drones used across her fields. “All these people come and go all over my farm,” she said.
Hart said she has asked for a virtual hearing, hoping that will speed up the eviction process.
“If I was in the wrong it would be one thing, but I'm not,” she said. “I've tried to work with him. Now I want him out.”