Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Former residents of the West Avenue Apartments in Columbia had a rude awakening this week after they found out they owe hundreds in unpaid rent.
We first told you last year about residents in the West Avenue Apartments in Columbia that were evicted from their apartment just before Christmas. The Columbia Fire Marshall deemed the building a hazard...leaving residents stranded without a home.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and the Columbia Housing Authority provided them with emergency vouchers and a place to stay.
Now almost four months late, those same residents told us that they were hit with a bill for the months they spent at Allen-Benedict Court Apartments.
"I don't know which way to turn because now I am going to have to come up with almost $1,200 that I don't have and that's going to put a strain on my living just for me day to day," said Michael Isaac.
Former West Avenue Apartment residents received a letter from the Columbia Housing Authority saying that had a mandatory meeting. It's what happened in the meeting that has people like Michael Isaac upset.
"They gave me a lease saying that now I have to pay for February, March and April."
Last year Mayor Benjamin promised residents emergency vouchers. The city worked with HUD and the housing authority to give the residents a place to stay.
Without our camera rolling we caught up with Housing Authority Director Gilbert Walker while he was leaving work and recorded the audio from the conversation.
"They are not grateful," said Walker. You don't think they are grateful? "I don't think they are grateful, they had to pay rent anyway. They knew it wasn't free," replied Walker.
When told that the residents were under the assumption that they were covered by the emergency voucher until further notice Walker said, "They knew it wasn't a voucher because we brought everyone over here."
When asked did residents sign a contract Walker said, "They didn't sign a contract, no."
Residents say they shouldn't have to pay anything because they weren't notified that they were being charged.
"All we got was some keys and told us to go and I don't think that was fair, because we were promised vouchers the next day," said Isaac.
"I know people with significant means and if you told them today, you had to pay three months of rent that would be tough," said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.
Benjamin says the vouchers provided free housing for December and January. He believes the Housing Authority is just following protocol.
"I don't know all the regulatory requirements but what I do know is when we called HUD and the Columbia Housing authority they stepped up."
Benjamin says that he is working with the housing authority so that the residents can spread their payments out throughout the year.