Marti Vadeboncoeur, who is acting as a spokesperson for Magnolia Gardens tenants, said no one has received a lease after Fickling and Company bought the apartment complex following the previous owners’ foreclosure. Making matters more difficult, Vadeboncoeur said, management told tenants they were responsible for their electric utilities and were told to have it in their name by Nov. 25. The notice was sent out Nov. 18.
Vadeboncoeur said it took a little while to determine what was going on, as Manager Gail Paylor has reportedly been difficult for tenants to contact.
“Because I’m pretty sure, one way or the other, I’m pretty sure we’re all going to be put out from here,” Vadeboncoeur said. “But in the meantime — how this started is just threats to people, and so we all started coming together. ‘What did she say to you today?’ ... It’s almost terroristic sometimes. ‘If you don’t do this, I will evict you.’ So we did the petition and faxed it off yesterday as well, which I have had no response to. No surprise there.
“I don’t think they’re going to respond to anyone. I don’t know that they have responded to anyone that has called them. Not to my knowledge. I don’t know what to do other than continue to put a little pressure on them to do the right thing.”
Messages left at Fickling and Company’s Macon office were not returned. Later attempts to call the Magnolia Garden office at 770-387-0821 were unsuccessful, as a recording stated the number was available for outgoing calls only. The lease office was closed Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Under the old lease, the only document available as residents do not yet have a lease with Fickling and Company, water and gas were paid by the apartment’s management. For electricity, according to the lease, residents could choose to pay for electricity in their own name or management would pay the electricity up to $100 and residents would pay any amount over that.
“[Fickling and Company] said, initially they said they’d probably wouldn’t continue that but somewhere down the road they would send out a notice — at least a couple months or so — so that people could gather the deposit money together,” Vadeboncoeur said. “Well, they sent out that letter on [Nov. 18] and said you will have this by the 25th or you will not be allowed to have a lease and you will not be allowed to live here. So that’s what started this.
“When I talked to the [city manager’s office], I said most of us are retired or disabled on fixed incomes, we don’t even get any money until the first, second or third of the month — nobody will have this on the 25th, and so she said they would not cut anyone’s power off. That she would put everybody’s name on a list at the power company involved in this and that when they came on the first, second or third they would even work with them so they didn’t have to pay the entire $150 all at one time, as long as they didn’t owe them money.”
According to a Cartersville customer service representative, who did not wish to be identified, the city was unaware of the changes going on at Magnolia Gardens and they were prepared to work with the tenants.
“And I told her, because [Paylor] gave them ’til Monday, and I said with that being short notice what I can do is I will work with them. Tell them to come on in and then we will work with them because the lady that called said a lot of the seniors don’t get their check ’till the first. So I actually sent the apartment complex an email stating we would work with them,” the representative said.
To complicate matters, Cartersville ordinarily requires a lease to activate utilities.
“I was telling them because we usually require a lease and they said, ‘Well, we can’t get a lease until we have the utilities turned on.’ I said, well, we’re caught up in a crossfire because we can’t give you utilities until we have one. So I did work it out. She sent me a list of everybody that’s supposedly in each apartment,” the representative added.
“... I did not know anything until one of the tenants called me. They never confirmed with us what they were going to do or anything. I had to call around just to answer the customer’s problem. I had to call around and search to get someone to call me. I was at the point to where me and my supervisor was going to ride over to the apartment complex to talk to them because we didn’t know what was going on.”
Vadeboncoeur acknowledged it was unlikely tenants could prevent getting forced out of their apartments, as she said it was the management company’s right to tell them to move. However, she said they should do it the right way. Under a law passed in 2009 called the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, which was renewed through Dec. 31, 2014, any new owner of a foreclosed apartment complex is required to give tenants 90 days to vacate their apartment.
“I have a family. If I get kicked out of here I will have to call them, they will have to come and get me and I’ll live with them until I find another place. I’m lucky. But, there are some people here [who], without property notice and ability, will be on the street. Isn’t it nice that you did this at holiday time? You know, and that’s a big deal too,” she said. “It’s like, you did it in the winter at holiday time when people aren’t working, nobody’s moving, there’s hardly any place you can find to move to. ... I just think it’s absolutely disgusting.
“... This company isn’t doing anything a thousand other management companies aren’t doing every day. But I’m pretty sure they were not expecting a bunch of stupid, poor, old people to jump up and go, ‘Ho, ho, ho wait a minute.’ I’m sure that they’re not happy about that.”