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One man’s cautionary tale as a landlord

By Clint Parker

Leicester – Area resident Bob Goodwin is retired. A widower who is living out his golden years on a fixed income as most Americans. A resident of the Leicester community for years, he lives in a small home and derives his income from his Social Security and a couple of rental homes he managed to purchase during his working years.

However, Goodwin recently ran into a bump in life’s road that has upset his fragile retirement income. As a landlord, Goodwin has been renting to tenants for about 10 years, he said with no problems at all. That suddenly changed with one of his rental properties in the Erwin Hills area where water is provided by the City of Asheville, but the sewer service is provided by a company called Carolina Water Service.

Goodwin says his tenant has been pretty good about paying his monthly rent payment. “I had no idea anything was going on,” Goodwin told the Leader. Then in December of last year, he said he got a visit from some Carolina Water employees. This was when he discovered that his renters had not paid their sewer bill in over a year. It was here things started to go downhill. He was informed that the home was having a plug placed in the sewer line to stop further use until the bill was paid.

Goodwin didn’t think much about it until the Carolina Water people returned and said the renter was still using it. “They came back later and said that the guy was still using it, and what he was doing was coming out there after dark and taking the cap of the [septic tank] clean out and letting the sewage come out in the yard,” said Goodwin. Soon he said the renter was allowing it to flow 24 hours a day.

It was at this point that Goodwin took a letter of eviction to his renter in January. However, he didn’t go through the court system. “Just me. Just handed it to him with a witness. Said on there [the notice] 30 days after his receiving it he was to be gone,” he said. The renter ignored it, and things got worse. “The next time I go out there…one day it [sewage] is halfway down the street to the intersection.”

Next, a complaint was registered with the environmental health department by an Asheville Water crew that was out doing work in the development. Goodwin said he went to the environmental health department to see what they were doing about it. “I went up there to see them. To see what they’d do about it…they said they’d investigate.”

After the investigation, Goodwin said he got a certified letter from the environmental health department saying that he was responsible and he had to take care of it. He was given to the 28th of February to rectify the problem or face a criminal warrant.

Goodwin said he looked into what it would take to get the sewer services reconnected and was told that $2,400 would need to be paid to take care of the bill before services could be restarted. An amount that would be hard for a fixed-income, retired widower to come up with. The sewer company also said they would restore service if the current renters, who actually owe the money, were evicted.

The renters, who were still living there and paying their monthly rent, cannot be evicted until after the courts find a cause and give them 30 days to get out. Goodwin finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place facing criminal warrant, paying a $2,400 bill he doesn’t owe or having his renters evicted.

Currently, Goodwin has started the process of eviction but is worried about criminal repercussions of the entire affair. “I’m doing all I can,” Goodwin said he told environmental health. “Everybody is real helpful, but no one is doing anything.”

The entire incident has made Goodwin rethink using a property management service to manage his rental properties. The problem there is the fee, around 10% or more of the monthly rental, will cut into his retirement income. “I’ve rented two places for 10 years and never had a minute’s trouble,” Goodwin explained. “First time I’ve had trouble.”

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