12/21/05 — Families handle holiday moving

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Families handle holiday moving

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on December 21, 2005 1:51 PM

Charles Brown and his family are changing addresses this week -- a little more than a month after finding out the apartment they were living in had been condemned, and the owner had decided to tear down the building.

Moving will mean a lost week of pay and a little less merry Christmas for his wife and children, Brown said.

"That's a week of pay gone during the holidays," he said. "It's Christmas, and our kids are going to suffer."

Brown said the cost of moving out of 300 Randall Lane was high, and that relatives in Maryland would be helping him and his wife give their children a special Christmas this year.

"We have to travel up there (Maryland) to make sure our kids even have a Christmas," he said.

Residents of the Randall Lane complex were notified Oct. 27 that their building had been condemned by the city. Soon after that, they received a letter from property manager Calvin Hodgin assuring them that repairs would be made, and that they should continue to pay their rent.

Hodgin and building owner Mike Pate assured members of the Goldsboro City Council on Nov. 7 that they would make the necessary repairs, if they were given a 90-day extension to bring the complex up to minimum housing standards, thus avoiding the condemnation order.

However, on Nov. 18, Brown and the other tenants received a letter from Hodgin, informing them that the project's cost was too high and the complex would be demolished. They were given 30 days to vacate the premises.

The tenants were offered October and November rent and their security deposits back to compensate them for the move.

Brown and other complex residents said they have mixed emotions about their recent moves from the condemned apartments and that the money received from their landlord was not enough.

On one hand, Brown said, it's a good feeling knowing that his family is in a safe place, free from health risks and substandard conditions.

On the other, however, he and other residents are still angry with their property manager.

"Right now, we're trying to find somebody that will listen to us," he said. "And help us bring a lawsuit against this man (Hodgin)."

Brown said his family and the other tenants were taken advantage of and that their landlord knowingly rented them dilapidated apartments.

"This man (Hodgin) violated our human rights and our rights as tenants," he said.

Brown recalled one day in October when his young daughter came home from school and asked him why her classmates were teasing her. He avoided the question.

The next day, Brown said she ripped down a sign that read "condemned" from their building and asked him, "what does this mean?"

"My kids have been laughed at and picked on at school," he said. "We're all embarrassed."

William Kornegay, another one of the tenants affected by the decision, finished clearing his apartment out Monday. He recently found a new place in Raleigh, he said, much more suitable for raising children.

"We found a real nice place in Raleigh," he said. "It's so much better and I think we'll end up being happy there."

Brown also moved recently, into a new home with a new landlord. While times are still tough for his family, he said they feel like they are some of the lucky ones.

"We're really not happy, but we still feel we've been blessed," he said.

Brown said he and the other tenants haven't given up hope that their landlord will be held responsible for more of the costs of their unplanned moves during the heart of the holiday season.

But that is not the only reason they are pursuing legal action, he said.

Brown said the tenants want people to know their rights and that they do not have to accept substandard living conditions as "normal".

"People don't know their rights. We didn't," he said. "But you don't have to live like we did. You don't have to live like this."

Brown added he and his former neighbors have been in contact with the North Carolina Fair Housing Center, the NAACP and other organizations, seeking representation.

"We still really feel things aren't all right," he said.