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Valley senior living in car after rent increase

Fighting $9,000 bill she says she doesn’t owe
Posted at 10:06 PM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-27 19:21:58-04

It’s a story that struck a nerve in viewers across the Valley when 63-year-old Gail Clay was preparing to live out of her SUV after her finding out rent for her Tempe apartment would nearly double in July.

ABC15 caught up with Clay in a library parking lot to find out how she and her dog have adapted to living in her Honda CRV.

“It's really kind of fun, except sometimes it can get kind of hot,” Clay said.

When we first met in July she had made the decision that living in her vehicle made the most financial sense.

"I'd rather pay my car note and just enjoy life,” she said at time.

And for the most part, she has been.

“It’s a choice that I honestly make every day, if I want to be sane, or if I want to be insane,” she said.

But a nearly $9,000 bill from her old apartment’s management company is threatening to push her to the edge.

Court records show that a judge ordered Clay to pay $1,064 after her eviction hearing in July. That amount included July rent, late fees, court costs, and landlord attorney fees.

So how did $1,064 turn into $8,998.04?

Clay said she isn’t sure but, “I had a feeling that this was going to happen.”

In its letter Market Edge Realty said keys were not returned by July 31 and the penalty was two months' rent.

Despite referring her to an attached estimate for cleaning a tenant ledger and an attorney invoice Clay said none were received.

“I cleaned my stove, I cleaned my tub, I cleaned everything,” and Clay said she took pictures for proof.

Clay also said she sent her keys to the property management company through certified mail. She showed ABC15 United States post office tracking information that shows the keys arrived to a ZIP Code that matches the property managers on July 28.

Gail says she contacted market edge Realty about the bill but has not heard back. The company did not respond to ABC15 either.

“It feels like retaliation,” Clay said.

She’s fighting her old home while trying to find a new one. But not having any luck. She says she’s applied in senior communities but they have 2 to 3-year waiting list.

While technically retired, she’s also working as a licensed massage therapist, but that extra income makes it so she makes too much for help but not enough to be able to rent a place.

“It’s a catch 22 but I'm not caught because I don't mind sleeping in my car,” she said.

But when it all becomes too much the comforter on her bed has the word ‘breathe’ and she says it reminds her to do just that.

“When I get overwhelmed; Gail, breathe. This is only temporary; Gail breathe,” she tells herself.