Posted January 14, 201910:21 am
After Ingrid Perry’s mother passed away two years ago, the manager at the housing complex where they both lived gave Perry 15 days to get hermother’s unit cleared out.
“I was cleaning her apartment, and all of a sudden the fire alarm and sprinkler system went off. Nobody knew how to turn it off, so it was on for 15 minutes or more,” Perry said, “Everything was soaked, all my mother’s photos, everything.”
The loss of precious keepsakes was painful enough, but then Perry got a $1,500 bill for water damage and a threat to evict from her landlord.
Perry called Legal Aid, where attorney Maria Smith took her case and negotiated an agreement with the apartment complex that prevented her eviction if she agreed to vacate her apartment. The landlord also agreed to provide a neutral reference as Perry prepared to move into subsidized housing.
Keen to avoid both the fine and an eviction record that could jeopardize her new housing, Perry moved out by the deadline, received back her mother’s security deposit, and found a new home without incident. For the time being, Perry had some closure to a painful chapter.
But two years later, the young woman received another invoice from the corporate headquarters of the complex — this time for $2,800 in damages.
“It felt like they were tearing the scar off an old wound,” Perry said. “Didn’t I already go through enough?”
Perry had left her own unit in fine condition, with a housing inspection report to prove it. Yet the corporate headquarters were taking advantage of the way the previous court case had settled – “without prejudice,” meaning the plaintiff could file a future lawsuit for damages.
Perry called Legal Aid for the follow-up help and staff attorney Callie Dendrinos was her advocate. The corporate office alleged that she had hit the sprinkler head while cleaning out the apartment. At a petite 4’11’’ it was unlikely any part of Perry could have set off the sprinkler.
Dendrinos knew Perry had a strong case and issued a written discovery outlining the many holes in their complaint.
“It seemed they were hoping she wouldn’t show and they’d get a default judgement against her,” Dendrinos said. “When it was clear we were going to litigate this, they lost their appetite.”
With Legal Aid’s representation, Perry received her second favorable outcome as the plaintiff dropped the suit. “The news lifted such a weight off me,” Perry said. “I was finally able to move forward in my life.”
Did you know most eviction cases are over in only 5-7 minutes? Having an attorney by your side in court makes all the difference when your home is at risk. Yet, people lose their housing every day because they don’t know or understand their rights as a tenant. Special thanks to the Bruening Foundation, First Federal of Lakewood, Higley Fund, KeyBank Foundation, Murphy Family Foundation, Sisters of Charity Foundation, Ulmer Berne, and United Way of Greater Cleveland: all groups helped underwrite Legal Aid’s housing advocacy over the past year. Ms. Perry’s case would not be possible without their support.