Pushing Back Against Wrongful Eviction in the High Country

Kyle Coffino, Staff Attorney at Legal Aid of NC

BOONE, NC – Recently, 30 tenants of the Watauga Green Apartments were surprised with a sudden notice of eviction citing that they failed to submit their recertification paperwork. However, a majority of the tenants involved had already completed and submitted their paperwork within the last three months of the notice.

Legal Aid of North Carolina was contacted and began work on litigation, challenging whether summary ejectment was proper when the alleged breach of lease was due to mismanagement on the part of the landlord. The primary objective of the litigation was focused to prevent the evictions and preserve public housing eligibility for applicable tenants.

Kyle Coffino, a Legal Aid of NC staff attorney working on this litigation, gives us a look into how the litigation process works in relation to this event, “For summary ejectment cases, landlords must utilize the court process. A landlord cannot evict a tenant without filing a complaint in small claims court and cannot physically remove a tenant from the property without an order from a magistrate. However, if a magistrate enters an order siding with the landlord, there is a ten-day period from the date of judgment that a tenant can appeal the ruling to district court. If a tenant appeals, a new trial is held with the outcome decided by a district court judge.”

Legal Aid of NC has helped to advocate for several of the tenants, many of whom live on a limited income. In the most recent update, Coffino has reported that the cases that Legal Aid of NC assisted on have all been dismissed. As the litigation progresses, Legal Aid of NC hopes to protect the tenancy of those facing eviction at Watauga Green, preserve eligibility for housing assistance, and provide crucial support and advocacy to others in the High Country area facing civil legal issues.

Our team is always willing and prepared to step in and assist North Carolina’s most vulnerable population. We believe that these people are seen through our involvement and we hope to continue strengthening this relationship with our communities.

Coffino reflects, “In the nearly seven months I have been working for LANC, the tenants we helped from Watauga Green Apartments are especially noteworthy. Our office learned of a potential injustice and mobilized to provide assistance to as many as we could in a short period of time. I think these kinds of cases really demonstrate the commitment that our local office has in showing up for the communities we serve, however and whenever we can.”

For those facing similar challenges, we encourage you to reach out to Legal Aid of NC. We can advise you on how to prepare for small claims court, and in some cases provide representation on appeal, among other means of support.