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Campbell Protects the Great Indoors

Monday, October 17, 2011

  • Legal Aid of North Carolina


Roger Manus PhotoCampbell University Senior Law Clinic (SLC) students, under the supervision of SLC Director Roger Manus (photograph), have spent a lot of time in the past 18 months keeping the roofs over the heads of senior widows.

A 63 year old lady got behind on her housing authority apartment rent when she had to replace all her furniture following a bedbug infestation in her building. SLC students Angela Guarin and Brian O'Shaughnessy argued in court that the client had disposed of her infested furniture at the landlord's request, necessitating a diversion of her funds to replace it. They also argued that that as the result of developing early Alzheimer's, the client sometimes forgot if she had paid her rent or not. Angela and Brian contended that the client was entitled to a rent rebate for her ruined property, and to reasonable accommodation in the form of being reminded to pay her rent in advance of its due date. The magistrate still granted the landlord's claim for summary ejectment. The SLC appealed. At the appeal hearing the landlord agreed to drop its eviction case if the client paid the back-due rent. The client, after consulting with her children, agreed to this, and she kept her apartment. (Brian is now a licensed NC attorney.)

A successor mortgage company advised a 76 year old widow that she owed them over $1800 for a payment she allegedly didn't make 5 years earlier to her original mortgage company, plus interest accrued on it. She sent the entire amount requested. Two and a half years later she received notice from a subsequent successor mortgage company alleging that she also owed $625 in late fees and a $286 "corporate advance fee". With great persistence, 3L Rebecca Yoder ascertained that the automatic bank draft to pay the mortgage was set up in an erroneous manner so that the client was counted as missing her first payment. Then, even though she made the extra payment when contacted 4 1/2 years later, all of her payments during that time were deemed late and assessed late fees because of the error concerning the first payment. Around the same time Rebecca made this finding, the subsequent successor mortgage company sent the client a letter alleging that she also owed them $911 for interest on back taxes, even though she had always paid her property taxes herself directly to the county. When confronted with the facts and evidence resulting from the investigation, the mortgage company agreed to delete all of the extra charges in dispute, including the "corporate advance fee" which the company decided to waive rather than explain.

Even now the SLC is putting the finishing touches on a public housing matter for yet another senior widow, and has just accepted a controversial rent-to-own case on behalf of another.



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