KCBD Investigates: Lubbock seniors say they may be left homeless by sudden rent increase

KCBD Investigates: Lubbock seniors say they may be left homeless by sudden rent increase
Seniors participate in a peaceful protest in front of Hillcrest Manor Senior Apartments (Source: KCBD)
Seniors participate in a peaceful protest in front of Hillcrest Manor Senior Apartments (Source: KCBD)
(Source: KCBD)
(Source: KCBD)

LUBBOCK, TX (AP) - Dozens of senior citizens in Lubbock are worried they will soon be without a home.

Many residents at Hillcrest Manor Senior Apartments are on a fixed income and were shocked to hear their rent would skyrocket in the middle of a lease term.

Hillcrest Manor advertises it participates in an affordable housing program.

While those on Section 8 will not immediately be affected, many others living on social security and disability will feel the impact in just days.

Those residents tell us they cannot afford to pay the rent increase, but they also cannot afford the penalty to break their contract, leaving them wondering what to do.

The seniors, some in their 80s and 90s, decided to host a peaceful protest.

For the day, they kissed retirement goodbye and went to work, no matter how difficult it was to get there.

More than a dozen seniors, some in wheelchairs and with walkers, went across the street from Hillcrest Manor to issue a protest and a prayer.

"All of us out here are older people," Linda Alexander said. "Where are we to go? What are we to do?"

Alexander said she has lived at Hillcrest Manor for ten years.

"They are raising people's rents ridiculously," she said.

She said her address may change after learning about a rent hike scheduled for June 1, in the middle of her lease term.

"It makes me very sad. That's what it does, it makes me very sad," she said.

Alexander, like many others, is on a fixed income.

"I am living on disability only. There are others living on social security only, and we just can't do it," said Patti Munoz.

Munoz said Hillcrest Manor plans to increase her rent more than $150 a month and her contract is not up until October 2018.

"A lot of us are trying to find other places to go, but we can't do anything until our lease here is up," Munoz said.

The apartment gave residents a 30-day notice of the rent increase, but it requires a 60-day notice if residents plan to move out.

"If we move out before our lease is up, we have to pay a reletting fee and that's 85 percent of our rent," Munoz said.

That charge means while many of the residents cannot afford to stay, they also cannot afford to leave.

"I just don't know what the answer is," Munoz said.

The KCBD investigates team went through the lease agreement for one tenant. It states, "No rent increases or lease changes are allowed before the initial lease term ends, except for those allowed by special provisions by a written addendum or amendment signed by you and us."

David Putman's father and in-laws live at Hillcrest Manor.

Putman said he was there when his dad signed the lease, but was not there when the apartment allegedly asked his father to sign an addendum that states rent can be increased based on the median gross income of residents.

Putman said he did not even know that addendum existed, until his father called him and said his rent was increasing dramatically.

Putman said he went to management at Hillcrest, who showed him a copy of the addendum his father had signed, along with the notice his father received about the rent hike.

The notice states that Hillcrest participates in the low income housing tax credit program and Mr. Putman's apartment is subject to the maximum allowable rent limits governed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The letter says rents are based on the area median gross income and due to this review, rent would be increased.

"I just wish the property would have allowed us to be involved in that so our attorneys could have reviewed that as we did with the lease," Putman said.

Putman said some residents he spoke with who renewed their lease before the notification of a rent increase had received a letter stating the new rental rate would be guaranteed for the entire lease term.

"So my question here is, what overrides the other? Is it the letter? Is it the addendum? There are so many documents. It's just a little hard to follow," Putman said.

The residents are now asking management for a grace period so the rent increase will not be enforced until the end of their lease period or let them out of their contract early, without penalty.

"I would like to at least see them honor our leases that we have until the date they are up at the price we came in on," Munoz said.

We asked Hillcrest Manor for a comment and they directed us to a media consultant who sent us this statement:

"Hillcrest Manor takes all resident concerns seriously. The recent changes in rent are in response to changing federal guidelines after the annual income and rent review conducted by HUD. Rents at Hillcrest Manor are based on the area median gross income (AMGI), which recently increased based on the recent HUD review of this geographical area. This is clearly spelled out in resident leases, and we will continue to work with our residents on this matter. We are committed to responsible management practices that deliver a comfortable and rewarding living community for all of our residents."

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