CAVE CREEK, AZ — On January 2, Kristin Lewis received an eviction notice that had been months in the making.
Since October, the mother of three had been going back and forth with her landlord and his attorney, trying to work out a way to stay in the Cave Creek house she had been renting since 2016.
Lewis's home health business fell apart once the pandemic hit, "we lost every single one of our contracts," she told ABC15.
She admits to struggling to get the rent taken care of, but says she always made sure it was paid.
Turns out, being up to date on her rent may have made it easier to evict her.
Maricopa County Human Services told ABC15 it paid Kristin's landlord $4,500 to cover three months of rent. Court records show the property belongs to the Herb and Lou Ann Engdahl Living Trust. Lewis says the payment kept her rent up to date through December 23.
According to the County, the final payment to the landlord was approved on September 25. But less than one month later, Lewis received a notice of non-renewal from her landlord's attorney dated October 19.
It informed her that the landlord intended to move back into the house and prepare it to be sold.
When receiving rental assistance from the County landlords must agree not to evict for 30 days after receiving payment. Lewis who is on a month-to-month lease, was given six weeks but still had nowhere to go.
"I never ever thought I would be in the situation where you have to look at my kids and say, I can't take care of you. just breaks my heart."
She submitted a letter seeking protection through the eviction moratorium from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but Lewis did not qualify. Because the protection only applies if a renter is behind in payments. So, renters on a month-to-month lease or whose lease is not being renewed are not covered unless they are delinquent.
The requirement that a tenant behind in rent for the CDC protections to apply were pointed out repeatedly by the landlord's attorney in the eviction action filing.
"I've been a good tenant; I've done everything correct. I've done the right thing of the law. Because I paid my bills, I'm getting evicted," Lewis said.
Given the landlord's timing of receiving payment and issuing the non-renewal notice, Lewis believed the eviction not being done in good faith, but she says she was not able to make that case during her hearing.
Attorney Pamela Bridge with Community Legal Services says because protections for monthly renters are so few, those who apply for rental assistance should negotiate with the landlord before starting.
"Yes, I will cooperate and helping to get rental assistance," Bridge said. "And in return, I would like you to sign that you are not going to try to evict me within the next two months, three months, however, you want to negotiate."
Lewis's hearing lasted 14 minutes and 34 seconds. In addition to being evicted, she said she was not able to fight for her $2,700 security deposit or for reimbursement for utilities she said the landlord asked her to keep in her name to provide power and water to an additional residence on the property.
"Didn't even talk about the deposit or anything or the other money that he owes for utilities," she said.
Lewis is appealing her eviction in hopes of recovering her deposit and more time due to a COVID exposure of one of her children.
In a statement to ABC15, attorney Justin Call who represents the landlord's said, "We are not at liberty to discuss this ongoing case other than we believe our client's claims to be reasonable, fair and fully within the law."