An outcry from Equinox and Solstice low-income housing complexes' residents who were served eviction notices has prompted the properties' owner, Homeword, to take action.
On Monday, about a dozen residents of the Missoula complexes were threatened with eviction after receiving notices of outstanding rent charges minutes before the Tamarack Property Management Co. offices closed. Several said they had paid their rent, and showed the Missoulian receipts to prove it.
Homeword, a Missoula affordable housing developer, announced in a Friday news release that two "broader preventative actions" will be put in place: Increase "staff capacity" at Tamarack's Missoula office to adjust office hours and provide receptionists, and "establish a fair and consistent communication protocol."
"I'm hoping they can do some policy changes. I love Equinox," said Judith Church, a resident. "I told my daughter I was never going to move, and I may end up moving.
"Why should we have to get so upset to get anything done?"
The residents said they received the notices about five minutes before Tamarack's 3 p.m. office closing time.
Homeword replaced the Missoula Housing Authority with Tamarack Property Management in January 2015. Tamarack has had five office managers in Missoula since that time, one Equinox resident told the Missoulian.
"We take these concerns of our residents very seriously," Homeword executive director Andrea Davis said in the release. "We have been working closely with Tamarack to ensure that each resident who received a notice from the Tamarack office this week clearly understands the reason for the communication."
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Discussions over the past month have revealed the need for more staffing in Tamarack's Missoula office, according to Homeword, and on Aug. 17, "we implemented a plan" to up that number.
Past-due payment notices are issued without determining the cause beforehand according to rental agency policy. According to state law, a landlord can issue a written notice of rent nonpayment to the tenant, and if it's not paid within three days, "the landlord may terminate the rental agreement."
Church agreed that the written notices are legal, "but why would anyone with any business sense do that to people?"
"Homeword and Tamarack both recognize that these notices can cause stress for those receiving them, especially in situations where an error is made," according to the news release. "The Tamarack staff is committed to working with residents to ensure that they understand these violations are easily remedied, either through prompt payment of outstanding balances or correcting erroneous balances."
Homeword says customer service and "respectful communication" are priorities for Tamarack.
"Their thing is 'treat everyone fairly' ... but they end up mistreating everyone equally," Church said.
Davis said Homeword is "deeply sorry for any distress these recent communications or other actions have caused our residents."