Rick Gingery has called Pleasant Manor in Snow Hill his home for more than 19 years.
However, following a switch in ownership, an increase in rent of more than $100 and a pet ban, Gingery no longer feels welcomed at Pleasant Manor.
“We don’t even know who the new owner is, never met him,” Gingery said. “All of this came right out of the blue.”
Pleasant Manor was designed for elderly and disabled tenants and has received funding from the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, thus a certain number of units have been set-aside for lower income households.
To qualify for low-income housing, households must earn less than 50 or 60 percent of the median income.
On June 1, the Severn Company, a property management company based in Annapolis, bought the apartment complex. Almost a month later, the tenants received a letter notifying them about the increase in rent.
Gingery’s rent at Pleasant Manor used to be $338 a month, but now it will be $450. That is an increase of $112, effective Aug. 1.
Gingery supports himself through Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Income, which allot him a little more than $700 a month.
His fixed income has placed him in a tricky situation — he cannot afford the new rent, but he also cannot afford to move out.
Other residents find themselves unsure of how they will pay for their monthly bills.
“You pay your $338, your light bill and your TV bill … then I got this much left over for the month,” resident Mary Spide said. “All of a sudden you don’t have that much left over for the month, and you sit there like ‘Oh Lord, what am I going to do?’”
In addition to the increase in rent, the new owners placed a ban on pets.
“I can’t live without this little guy [his dog]. He’s my heart and soul,” Gingery said.
Gingery and Spide said that most of the residents have a pet, and that several of them are registered service animals.
Landlords are allowed to raise their tenant’s rent, but they are typically only allowed to do so once a year after the end of a tenant’s lease.
An exception to this rule is if the tenant is renting on a month-to-month lease. If this is the case, a landlord may raise the rent each month as long as they give written notice, usually 30 days beforehand.
In addition, while landlords do have the authority to ban pets, they are not allowed to ban service animals.
“Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers are obligated to permit, as a reasonable accommodation, the use of animals that work, provide assistance, or perform tasks that benefit persons with disabilities, or provide emotional support to alleviate a symptom or effect of a disability,” an ADA FAQ said.
Property manager Tracey Holmes held a meeting with the tenants on June 26 to inform them of the changes that would take place under the new ownership.
However, Gingery and Spide said that this meeting amounted to nothing, and felt it to be more of a monologue, rather than a dialogue.
Holmes suggested that there would be a chance that they would be able to keep one of their pets, but nothing has been firmly established.
The Severn Company could not be reached for comment, and Holmes refused to speak with Ocean City Today.
For residents like Gingery, whose pets are not registered service animals, the ban and the rent increase pose a harsh ultimatum: Get rid of his beloved animals, or go through the arduous process of finding a new, low-income home.
“Everybody here is disabled some way or another, [and] they’re very low-income,” Gingery said. “With the income that we got, it’s just about impossible to find something within our range.”