Mary Mosley says the city of Raleigh is trying to evict her from her home of two and a half years, where she lives with her son, Diego, and her grandson, Omarray.
The Mosley home is a second-story apartment on a safe stetch of Edenton Street, east of downtown. Comfortable for three people, the apartment has a large, well-lit kitchen and a spacious living room where the family spends most of its time together.
But the city, which owns the property, and Barker Realty, which manages it, have tried to force the Mosleys out. They allege Mary Mosley was living there illegally, even though Wake County Child Protective Services essentially required her to move in to care for her grandson.
After nearly six months of legal and administrative wrangling, Barker Realty withdrew its lawsuit against the Mosley family last month. However, still convinced the Mosleys have no right to live in the apartment, it has joined the city in another lawsuit to force them to leave by Oct. 31.
Mary Mosley contends that Barker's actions amount to an illegal eviction, since Barker works for the City of Raleigh, which receives federal funds to maintain and rent the property to low-income residents.
Mosley says she is being penalized for living with Diego, which she did to keep the family together.
"This is for the woman who doesn't know her rights, it's for that low-income mother who's working a minimum wage job, who is told to go live back with her parents or a man that beat her," Mosley says. "It's for people who will get moved backwards instead of staying comfortably and moving forward."
In March 2012, Wake County Child Protective Services placed Diego's son, Omarray, then 5, in Mary's direct care under a Kinship Safety Placement, a program designed to prevent the breakup of families
According to the county's letter, this "avoided the need" for Omarray to be moved into foster care. Diego would be able to participate in his son's care without assuming full responsibility, because of work commitments and what Mary remembers as the caseworker deeming as a lack of experience in raising a young child.
The month before the county's placement, Diego, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and single father, had signed a lease on the apartment.
Mary and Omarray moved in with him immediately after receiving the letter from the county.
Valerie Malloy, a community development specialist for the city, says that Diego, the leaseholder, failed to notify Barker Realty that his mother lived there.
However, it was not a secret. In November 2012, Bill North, a Barker Realty property manager who handles the company's affordable housing, conducted an annual walk-through inspection of the property. "I was there," Mary Mosley said. "He never spoke to me. He never addressed me, but he, implicitly or explicitly, knew I resided there."
In February 2013, Barker renewed Diego's lease, and North conducted another maintenance inspection the following November.
Not until this year did Barker Realty question the legality of Mosley's living situation. North referred all questions to his attorney, Bart White, who refused to comment.
Mosley says that North was looking for an excuse to evict the family, a process that began in earnest long after she originally moved in.
However, in court documents, North states that the termination of the Mosleys' lease "was precipitated by my suspicion that (Diego) was either not living in the premises or had allowed an individual whom we believe to be his mother to occupy the premises."
Diego's son was the only other legal occupant of the apartment, North stated, since Omarray's name was the only one listed as a tenant on the lease application.
Valerie Malloy of the city's Community Development Department told the INDY that Diego did not comply with the income re-certification that was needed before Barker could renew the lease. But the letter gave no reason for non-renewal of the lease.
Mosley says she was advised by the local U.S. Housing and Urban Development field office in Greensboro to contact the IRS because of a rule stating that owners of affordable housing properties are prohibited from refusing to renew leases without "good" cause.
The rule defines that good cause as "either a serious or repeated violation of the lease, crime or drug related activity, or failure to vacate following a condition that leaves the unit uninhabitable."
In January 2014, Barker Realty forced the Mosleys to purchase $300,000 in rental insurance in order to renew the lease. Until then, rental insurance had merely been suggested for renters.
Malloy said the insurance has been standard policy since last year. "All new renters are subject to that, as well as all current tenants who are up for renewal."
Jack Holtzman, an attorney at the N.C. Justice Center and director of Legal Aid North Carolina's Fair Housing Project, said Barker's sudden rental insurance requirement was surprising but probably legal.
"There's obviously an initial smell factor," Holtzman said. "It doesn't seem proper. But it's only illegal if the landlord does it in a discriminatory way, or makes it a requirement for some tenants and not others."
Diego purchased the renter's insurance premium for $85, a down payment. The monthly payment was around $10.
Thinking he had complied with Barker Realty's requirement, Diego took the policy to its office on Jan. 30.
But when he did, Diego was told the lease wasn't available. He then received a letter saying that his lease would not be renewed and that he would have to vacate the property by March 31, 2014.
Mosley and her family never moved out. In April, Diego took that month's rent to the Barker offices, but they refused it. Meanwhile, Barker Realty showed the Mosley's apartment to prospective tenants.
On April 15, 2014, Mary and Diego met with North, Cindy Minion, the executive vice president of Barker Realty, and a community development specialist for the city, who has since moved to Ohio.
At the meeting, Mosley says Minion suggested that she, Diego and Omarray seek housing assistance with Pan Lutheran Ministries, Triangle Family Services or local homeless shelters.
"I told her most shelters are temporary and would you rather see me and my family homeless and in a shelter than in a home," Mosley says.
Mosley says she wants to stay in the apartment or be paid for relocation expenses. Barker and the City of Raleigh contend since Mosley was never permitted to move into the apartment in the first place, she has no rights as a displaced tenant.
In May, Barker filed for possession of the property in Wake County small claims court and won. Mosley appealed the ruling, asking that Barker Realty pay to rehouse the family or allow them to stay.
Finally, last month in another effort to evict the family, Barker Realty and the city sued the Mosleys.
Barker Realty questioned "the truthfulness and accuracy of employment verification documents" when Diego applied for the 2014 lease renewal, according to White, the company attorney. A woman named April Davis, who works at Divine Healthcare, says that Diego did not work there, as he reported on his lease renewal application.
Davis said she had not filled out and signed the Employment Verification Request that was submitted by Diego, essentially accusing him of fraud.
In a final effort to evict the Mosleys, Barker Realty told Mary Mosley to apply for an apartment as the leaseholder. But the company promptly denied her lease application because of an "unfavorable criminal report."
Mosley has some misdemeanors on her record, the most serious being for possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of stolen goods 17 years ago. The only recent charge is driving with a revoked license.
"She was denied," Malloy said, "because there are things we can make exceptions for and things we cannot."
Mosley acknowledges that her record has caused problems when she has tried to apply for housing in the past. Mosley says she has been displaced by the city of Raleigh three times, when the city wanted to upgrade properties, or because buildings were condemned. In those instances, the city paid her relocation expenses, she says.
Then on July 21, 2014, the day before Barker's lawsuit against Diego was to be heard in court—Mosley wrote the INDY in an email, "Great news, Barker Realty's attorney wants to cut a deal. The court case has been dismissed so we can finalize our settlement."
Barker Realty attorney Bart White confirmed that North voluntarily dismissed the case; Malloy said the city is refiling the case against Diego. White's expenses, and court and miscellaneous costs are all being billed to the City of Raleigh.
Mary Mosley says she has not signed an agreement to move out of the residence. She is looking for representation and is consulting with the NAACP. She says she has been advised that the family cannot be evicted (as long as they are still paying rent) before they go to court.
"I'm 57 years old," Mosley said. "I don't want this battle. It's an injustice, but it's not just for me. It's for the next family they want to throw in the street. It's not fair and it's not going to be done."
This article appeared in print with the headline "A home runaround"