WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Affordable housing is hard to come by, especially when living with a disability. Having lived in the same home since 2010, T. Totten* and her disabled mother and sister are now facing eviction.
In 2021, a chain of failed housing inspections, due to property management non-compliance, resulted in the termination of Totten’s Section 8 Housing Voucher. While the Housing Voucher was reinstated by the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem (HAWS) in Sept. 2021, failed inspections continued to threaten Totten and her family’s livelihood.
On May 19, 2022, Totten’s property manager was notified, yet again, by HAWS that the home was “un-inhabitable” and that renovations were necessary to pass inspection. If renovations were not made, and the inspection was not passed, they would have to stop making payments to the property. Later that day, Totten received a Non-Renewal of Lease letter from her property manager stating that she needed to vacate the home in less than 30 days.
“If I left when they wanted me to, I would be homeless,” said Totten. “Me and my handicap mother and sister would have nowhere to go. That’s when I called Legal Aid of North Carolina.”
Once connected with Legal Aid of North Carolina, supervising attorney Edward Sharp informed Totten that a tenant may not be put out of a rental home without being evicted through the courts first. While this was good news, it only delayed the inevitable — eviction.
Totten remained housed for the time being, but the property manager continued to ignore her and the Housing Authority’s repair requests. As a result, HAWS had to cease payments to the property.
Now, months later, the inevitable has arrived. On Nov. 8, 2022, Totten received a Nonpayment of Rent notice stating that she owed over $5,000 in rent, which was meant to be paid through her Section 8 Housing Voucher. If the payments are not made, legal action will be taken against Totten by the property.
The payment deadline has passed, and Totten and her family are struggling to find a new home. With extremely long waiting lists, unsafe living conditions, and little-to-no handicap accessible options, the possibility of homelessness is looming.
“It is very hard to find landlords who are willing to accept Section 8 Vouchers,” noted Sharp. “While the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem actively recruits landlords for the program, it remains a crisis for voucher holders looking for new apartments.”
A team of Legal Aid NC attorneys, paralegals and support staff are working together on Totten’s complicated case, providing her crucial legal advice, and connecting her with a social worker to assist in finding Totten and her family a new, safe place to call home.
As our Winston-Salem team continues their search to find Totten suitable housing, we urge you to email HelenH2@legalaidnc.org, if you, or someone you know, has a lead on handicap accessible, Section 8 Housing.
*Name partially redacted for client confidentiality