23-year-old Keilani Luxmore may be headed back to a homeless shelter with her three children over late rent in the amount of two dollars.
That’s according to The Seattle Times, which reported that property management company Ballard Realty Inc. had begun eviction proceedings against Luxmore, who pays rent with Section 8 federal housing subsidies. Luxmore’s share of the $1,395 monthly rent at her apartment in Lake City, Washington (a suburb of Seattle) is just $2. She also pays for utilities at the apartment.
However, even though Luxmore said she sent a money order to Ballard for her December rent and utility bill, she doesn’t know why the company is claiming to have never received it. Despite paying for both December and January rent, the company is now claiming Luxmore owes hundreds of dollars in late fees, which she is unable to pay.
Luxmore recently appeared at the King County courthouse to plead her case to Judge Julie Spector, who, according to the paper, postponed the hearing so Luxmore and Ballard could come to an agreement.
“We’re here for $4,” Judge Spector said. “I’m trying really hard to keep you guys out of court and keep you in your apartment.”
Ballard’s attorney told the Times that they “tried to reach a settlement where the tenant paid her debts,” but that no agreement was reached. Edmund Witter, an attorney with the King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project who is representing Luxmore, said there was “no rational sense” why Ballard would spend thousands of dollars in legal fees and court costs to collect such a small amount. And after she’s evicted, Witter said she could still have to pay in excess of $1,000 in legal fees.
“You still end up with this huge debt that spirals out of control,” Witter told the Times.
While the amount owed is not typical, Luxmore’s case is fairly common in Seattle. The Times reported on a study from September 2018 by the Housing Justice Project and the Seattle Women’s Commission, which found that roughly half of all renters who faced eviction owed just one month in late rent. Many of those evicted renters then became homeless.
Other than New York and Los Angeles, Seattle has the highest rate of homelessness in the country. In December, Forbes reported that the Seattle/King County metro area had more than 12,000 people experiencing homelessness at some point in 2018, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Neither Ballard Realty nor Keilani Luxmore immediately responded to Grit Post’s inquiries.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.