On Oct. 9, residents of a 12-unit apartment building in Winona Lake were given written notices they were being evicted and their electricity would be turned off. Though the power has remained on at 77 Kings Highway, a new development has left many tenants in fear.
According to renter Ray Eaton, building owner and landlord Jacalyn Haist told all residents earlier this week to be out of their apartments by today. After Haist went door to door this morning, Eaton stated his neighbors were told to vacate the premises tonight or she would call the police.
According to police, renter-landlord disputes are civil matters and, without an eviction order signed by a judge, Haist cannot legally evict her residents. Police may be called and could choose to respond, but they cannot force anyone to leave at this point.
Still, residents are concerned Haist may turn off the electricity as she allegedly previously warned. According to Bob Weaver, administrator at the Kosciusko County Health Department, Haist may turn off the power after giving a “reasonable amount of time” to tenants to move.
Explained Weaver, “We go by the rule that if a person pays monthly, you have to give them a month’s notice. During that time you cannot turn off any of the utilities. You have to keep providing them. If you go by two weeks, you can turn it off after two weeks and so on. Eviction is a legal matter and a civil matter and we don’t get into that.”
The Oct. 9 notice given to each resident of 77 Kings Highway read: “Due to finances I am sorry to announce that I must close the apartment building immediately. You need to find housing elsewhere as soon as possible.” It noted those who pay weekly would have 1 week to vacate and those who pay bi-weekly would be given 2 weeks to vacate. One renter pays month to month. (See related story)
As the apartment building does have one monthly renter, per Weaver the electricity should not be turned off before Nov. 9, which is one month after Haist notice was given to residents.
Eaton, a pastor with the Free Methodist Church, said he moved into the apartment in January while he worked to switch his credentials to the Lutheran church. Though he works part time, Eaton admitted that after paying the rent, which is $100 a week, he was left with only $30 for groceries and personal items. When Eaton was told he must move, he admitted he and many others were without hope of finding somewhere to go.
“I was looking at either going to a homeless shelter or taking a long walk in the lake. I have no biological family left, but I am fortunate to have friends who are like family who handed me a deposit and first month’s rent for a place. I am lucky, but I know some of these people are going to get really hurt. If she is going to hurt this many people, she needs to be known for it,” said Eaton.
Eaton added there were many issues with the apartment, such as a leaky sink, rotting ceiling above his shower and no control of heat on cold days, but he never complained because he was thankful for having a roof over his head.
“This place is a slum,” said Eaton tearfully. “She’s a slumlord. If I could have afforded better I would have, but I never complained. I’m not too good for a slum, I just need somewhere to sleep and cook my Ramen (noodles).”
Eaton said Haist approached both he and his neighbor asking whether or not they were up to date on rent and if they had paid a deposit – a fact Eaton was shocked his landlord did not know herself.
“She asked, ‘Did you pay a deposit and are you up-to-date?’ If you aren’t keeping records, maybe that is why your business is in trouble,” reasoned Eaton.
In a phone call with Haist, she said the claims of her tenants are not true, however, she refused to comment any further.