A property management company that issued eviction notices to low-income tenants at a Portland apartment complex last month rescinded the notices in a new letter Wednesday but noted that rents are going to increase as renovations are made.

Tenants at 240 Harvard St. who receive Section 8 housing assistance got eviction notices in late October. The property management company said the notices were sent in error but told tenants that rents are going up. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“We are going to put money into the property and rents will go up, but we want to work with you and if it works out, we would love to have you stay,” Bill Steinberg, director of acquisitions and asset management for Massachusetts-based Chestnut Realty Management, said in an interview Wednesday.

Steinberg sent the letter that tenants at the Woodwinds Apartments received Wednesday, a day after the company said eviction notices issued last month to residents on Section 8 housing vouchers were issued in error by attorney David Van Baars.

Van Baars said in an email he had been retained by the management company and asked to prepare the notices. If there was a lack of communication between the owner, 240 Harvard St., LLC, and the management company, he was not aware of it, he said.

“I do not make decisions for my clients, and did not do so in this instance,” Van Baars said. “I provide advice and act in accordance with their direction.”

The Bangor Daily News first reported on the eviction notices, which raised concerns among tenants and housing officials. They criticized the company’s short time frame for asking residents to vacate their apartments and questioned why only tenants receiving Section 8 vouchers, which are federal subsidies that help low-income and disabled tenants secure housing, were sent the notices. About two dozen families received the notices.

The letter says the company plans to work with tenants to move them from month-to-month leases to more long-term agreements and will be reaching out to every tenant to discuss negotiating a new lease.

“The owner intends to work with tenants to help figure out how they can either continue to reside at the property, or to try and assist tenants in finding new residences,” Steinberg said in the letter. “We do not anticipate that this will need to be addressed until 2020 and would be glad to meet with tenants to discuss how we can assist in this process.”

The letter also notes that the standard lease form used by the complex’s new owner might differ from what is used by the Portland Housing Authority for tenants with Section 8 vouchers.

Tenant Emily Ward does not receive a Section 8 voucher, but raised concerns about that part of the letter Wednesday, saying it left the company with an option to not work with her neighbors who receive the federal assistance.

“I just think the letter didn’t really help anything,” Ward said. “Until they say, ‘Yes, you can sign a new lease with your Section 8 this doesn’t really give anybody any security.”

Ward also criticized the letter for saying rents would increase as the new owners undertake renovations on the property and they were unsure what the impact would be for residents on Section 8 vouchers. She pointed to a Craigslist ad that lists a “fully remodeled” three-bedroom apartment in the complex for $1,850.

“They say they don’t know what the cost will be, but they have these apartments on Craigslist going up to $1,850,” she said.

Steinberg, in the interview Wednesday, said he had not seen the Craigslist ad, but noted that three-bedrooms units are currently renting for around $1,700 and the $1,850 price would make sense for a renovated unit.

He said the company is in the process of going through the property and figuring out what repairs and upgrades need to be made and what the cost will be.

“The letter doesn’t answer everyone’s questions,” Steinberg said. “The main point was to tell people to disregard the (previous) letter that went out and shouldn’t have gone out. We want to reiterate we do want to work with you.”

 

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