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Senior residents dealing with pests, eviction threats at an Ewa affordable housing complex

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 7:42 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Elderly, low-income renters at a city housing project in Ewa Beach said they are facing unfair fees and eviction threats from apartment managers.

Residents at the West Loch Elderly Village also said when they reported pest infestations in their apartments, they were told to handle it on their own.

“You’re telling me I have to pay for this exterminator? For mice? I didn’t bring the mice in. They’re getting in from the outside,” said Ruth Gardner, who said she trapped seven mice in the past month in her apartment.

Juliette Rawlins, who said she has an ant problem, added that the insects got into her apartment from openings in her wall and electrical outlets — not because she left food out.

“My kitchen was just infested with ants. They were all over my stove, my counters, kitchen sink. They were in the cabinets,” she said.

Some residents at the West Loch Elderly Village said when they reported pest infestations...
Some residents at the West Loch Elderly Village said when they reported pest infestations recently, they've were told they are on their own.(none)

“I can’t see why the tenants are liable to take care of the problems because we can’t afford it.”

The city owns the 150-apartment complex but has hired a property management company to maintain and operate it.

It said the property manager is only responsible for the exteriors and common areas and that residents are responsible for their own units.

But state Rep. Bob McDermott disagreed.

“That should be included in the property management. These people are on fixed incomes. They are our kupuna. We need to take care of them,” said McDermott, (R) Ewa Beach.

Gardner and Rawlins were among the dozens of tenants who met with McDermott today to voice their complaints about how the project is being managed.

They said the apartments have been managed for years by a nonprofit company specializing in affordable rentals — with few problems. But several years ago, the city hired a for-profit property manager, and that’s when the complaints started.

Along with pest and maintenance issues, the residents also had complaints about the new company’s management style.

Sybil Shrinski who relies on Social Security, said she has paid her rent for about 28 years at the middle of the month after her check comes in.

But in April, she said the property managers told her she had to start paying on the first of the month.

“After that, I get a letter (saying) I have three months late fee, January, February, March. And they wanted $138 or I would be evicted,” she said.

Added another longtime resident Lina Unutoa, “They’re writing letters, almost pressuring everybody like you’re going to be evicted. If you don’t pay this much, you’re going to be evicted,” she said.

In letter to McDermott, Scott Hayashi, director of the city’s Department of Land Management, said any late notices are based on state law which allows termination for past due rents.

“This notice is based on the Hawaii Landlord-Tenant code, HRS 521-68 (a), which provides that, Landlord may demand payment of for rent anytime it is due,” wrote Hayashi.

“The landlord may notify the tenant in writing that unless payment is made within five business days after tenant receives the notice, the rental agreement will be terminated.”

Many of these notices were issued while the statewide eviction moratorium was in place. When asked why the city the moratorium did not apply to these renters, a city spokesman Tim Sakahara said in an email:

“No one has been evicted, nor has the eviction mediation process started with any residents of the West Loch Villages,” said Sakahara.

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