Tenants of a Bench apartment complex who have not paid rent for October received three-day eviction notices on Wednesday, as nonprofit and church groups scrambled to help them find new housing.
About 400 residents have been living in the complex near the intersection of South Curtis Road and Cassia Street. Most are refugees.
As many as 77 of the 112 units are still occupied, said Zoe Ann Olson, executive director of the Intermountain Fair Housing Council, a Boise nonprofit.
If the landlord’s property manager, Verity Property Management, goes to court seeking evictions on Monday — which Verity has indicated it will — the evictions could begin roughly 20 days later, Olson said Thursday.
Verity did not respond to calls seeking comment.
In September, Verity issued 30-day notices to vacate its month-to-month tenants, accounting for most of the residents. The new owners, Mark and Caran Daly of Eagle, plan to renovate the complex and boost monthly rents to between $900 and $1,000, compared with from $575 to $650 now.
But finding new housing with little advance notice is an uphill task in a tight rental market. The orders to vacate and Verity’s initial refusal to grant extensions, release deposits early or give any concessions that would help tenants find new housing were criticized by protesters, the housing council and Mayor Dave Bieter.
Verity has since agreed to consider extending the deadline for tenants of 16 units, said Julianne Donnelly Tzul, executive director of International Rescue Committee of Boise.
She said Verity agreed to weigh extensions for those who had applied for other housing and who paid through October using cashier’s checks or money orders, not checks.
The housing council’s legal team is considering court actions involving tenant-landlord law and fair-housing violations. Olson said the team is investigating unfair treatment of refugee tenants and long-term maintenance problems, including insect infestations, that could entitle tenants to payment.
Donnelly Tzul said Verity would be more successful clearing out units if it gave ground by returning deposits or waiving late fees so tenants could pay for moves..
“(Verity) is very pragmatic,” Donnelly Tzul said. “I would hope that that pragmatism would lead to yielding on the late-fee issue. If tenants have to dump a couple hundred dollars into late fees, that’s money they don’t have for deposits.”
Meanwhile, dozens of volunteers for the International Rescue Committee and other church and refugee organizations have logged hundreds of hours helping Glenbrook tenants apply for housing and prepare to relocate, Donnelly Tzul said.
Mary Glidden was one of the first 15 IRC volunteers more than three weeks ago. She had recently returned to Boise after working for two years with the Peace Corps in Swaziland, helping with AIDS prevention and female-employment programs.
She said she and other staffers and volunteers are running out of juice. Help came this week when an additional 20 IRC volunteers joined. They will fill out tedious 25-page surveys needed for the financial side of the effort. “It’s a really big burden lifted off of our shoulders,” she said.
The IRC has received $5,000 in donations to help pay for tenant moves, Donnelly Tzul said. Of that, $1,000 has been spent to relocate residents of two units.
Volunteers for the housing council are also helping. Olson said the council is working with Idaho Legal Aid, Idaho Volunteer Lawyers and the Idaho Trial Lawyers Association. The council has three university interns and eight University of Idaho law student volunteers.
The Agency for New Americans is working to relocate Glenbrook tenants, as are several local churches. Several employees from the Boise accounting firm Jitasa have volunteered too, Donnelly Tzul said.
“A lot of people are doing some heavy lifting,” she said.