BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — When Ernestine Adail got a notice in September saying she was being evicted from her apartment for not paying rent, she thought it had to have been a terrible mistake.
She said she always paid her rent on time. Then, other tenants at Sonder Point — a building for low-income seniors — started to receive the same notices.
When Ernestine and her husband, Millard, started asking around about what happened, they realized there was a common thread: Many of them had paid their rent in cash or money orders to the property manager.
“I know that I directly handed the property manager those money orders,” Millard said.
Many of the residents suspect that the property manager embezzled the money, said Sharon Harris, who runs a building bible study. She said more than 25 residents have come to her panicking over being evicted.
“People calling me, crying,” she said.
Even though the manager is now gone, the residents say they’re still facing eviction. They’ve filed police reports and called the mayor and attorney general.
Brooklyn Center police said they are investigating the rent theft allegations. The former manager has not been charged with any crime, and could not be reached for comment.
Ernestine and others said they called Real Estate Equities, the St. Paul-based company that owns the property, to ask for help, but had gotten no response.
That is, until Friday.
After KARE 11 contacted Real Estate Equities, a spokeswoman sent a statement saying the company was conducting an internal investigation – and cooperating with police.
“We are working with all residents who have informed us of a discrepancy in rent payments in an effort to protect their housing,” the statement said.
The morning after our email, letters went up in the building telling residents to call the company to review their accounts.
“We look forward to assisting you,” the letter read.
On Monday, the company told KARE 11 it would suspend evictions for non-payment until after the police investigation has been completed.
The residents are hopeful that’s true. Facing falling temperatures – and eviction – many say they have nowhere else to go.
“No one wants to be homeless or sleeping in their car,” Harris said.
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