The Multiplier Effect

Selena Toledo was forced to stay home from work

…when her babysitter didn’t show. It cost her that job. With no income or child support, the single mother of four could hear the clock ticking.

Selena Toledo

Like many other single mothers, Selena Toledo was forced to stay home from work when her babysitter didn’t show. This unfortunately happened one too many times for her employer, and she lost her job as a result. With no income or child support, the single mother of four could hear the clock ticking.

“I was out looking, but most places wouldn’t give me an entry-level job because I had nine years of experience in the medical industry. I would have taken anything. I was desperate. I fell behind on rent,” Toledo recalls.

When she couldn’t pay her October, then November rent, HAJC began to talk eviction. They would not allow her to continue living in the facility with two months of unpaid back rent.

In the nick of time, Toledo found a new job. She could now begin to pay back the accumulated rent, or so she thought. The onsite property manager told her otherwise, she would need to come current right away, and she received a notice to vacate.

Toledo’s father had heard of Help Now! and urged his daughter to call. Help Now! Executive Director and advocate Larry Kahn took on Toledo’s case because of its urgency. Bypassing the onsite property manager and negotiating directly with the HAJC manager with oversight responsibility for Selena’s complex, Kahn promptly arranged repayment terms that both parties could accept.

There was just one catch.

HAJC wanted the terms of the agreement to be part of a mediated court settlement that would come about only AFTER they filed an eviction suit against Toledo. They wanted this to be able to take possession of Toledo’s apartment immediately without further court process in the event she failed to live up to the terms for repayment. HAJC would incur a court filing fee and, under the terms of Selena’s lease, they were in a position to make that a part of Toledo’s repayment at a time she barely had enough money to live on,” Kahn says.

To Kahn, the solution seemed to rest on finding a way for HAJC to avoid filing an eviction suit but still be in the same legal position as if it had in the event of Toledo’s default on the repayment agreement. Kahn suggested this to the HAJC manager with whom he had been dealing and told her he would find out from a local landlord-tenant attorney whether this could be done under Oregon law and, if so, how.

She, in turn, inquired of her senior manager whether HAJC could wait for Kahn to track down that answer. The senior manager said “no” in part because it had never been done before, and she wanted the attorney with whom HAJC consults on such issues to concur on such a procedure if Kahn came up with one. HAJC proceeded to file the eviction suit against Toledo.

Kahn realized that, if what he was proposing were possible, it could benefit other HAJC tenants facing eviction, and so he turned to Help Now!’s network of local attorney partners for an answer. He consulted with attorney Carlyle Stout who specializes in landlord-tenant law preliminarily advising Stout of the parties and issue involved.

Stout advised that he routinely drafts a document, called a Stipulated Judgment, to address just the situation faced by Toledo and HAJC in the manner envisioned by Kahn. It gets filed with the court, and a filing fee is incurred, only in the event the tenant fails to comply with its terms.

In a positive twist, it turned out that Stout was also the attorney on whom HAJC depends for legal advice. Kahn obtained Stout’s commitment to advise HAJC of this approach in dealing with evictions so that, in the future, filing fees can be avoided by future HAJC tenants facing eviction for unpaid rent but reaching agreement with HAJC on terms of repayment.

This new policy will result in fewer lawsuits being filed against HAJC tenants and, in the process, will save those tenants having to repay the attendant filing costs. This simple change, brought about by Help Now!, will save HAJC tenants thousands of dollars going forward. Kahn also put in a request to the HAJC senior manager that Toledo be spared having to pay the filing fee given that a routine procedure was readily available that would have avoided the fee.

“This matter is a great example of how we can effect change for many while working to help just one. It’s where our work can have a multiplier effect,” Kahn says.

Toledo was grateful she found Help Now! when she did.

“The fact that there’s this organization out there that will talk with you when you’re in a stressful situation and will help instead of judging you, it’s awesome,” says Toledo.

The Housing Authority of Jackson County (HAJC) is the HUD (U.S. Housing and Urban Development) agency for Jackson County, Oregon. As such, among other things, it serves as landlord for thousands of senior, disabled, and low income persons in the County. The following is a story of how, through our work on one matter, we can achieve a result that literally can affect the lives of thousands of others for the better.

With your support, we can continue to make a difference for people in crisis.

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