“My name is Cindel Williams and I live with my partner and his 14-year-old son. We moved to Asheville about five years ago from Maryland.When the pandemic hit, I got furloughed from my job [as a retail manager].
I used my unemployment and stimulus money to pay partial rent, utilities and food. I was in communication with my landlords the whole time and let them know that I would pay as much of the rent as possible. Then [about a year later] when I was able to go back to work, I was able to pay full rent.
But in April 2021, I get an eviction letter in the mail. It said the reason for the eviction was criminal activity on the property.
The eviction moratorium was still in place, plus we were paying rent. The only way they could evict us was through some other reason.
It was [made up] to get around the eviction moratorium. My partner and I are a mixed-race couple. [I felt like] they just wanted us out.
I’ve always been a model tenant and never faced an eviction before. But I researched my rights as a tenant and learned they can’t evict us willy-nilly, like they were trying to do.
[Pisgah Legal attorney] Frank Fischer called me on the Friday before our court hearing. He saw my name on the court docket. I felt so relieved when I was finally able to talk to an attorney.
As part of Pisgah Legal’s Homelessness Prevention Program, housing attorneys contact tenants that they identify from the court docket prior to their eviction hearing date to review their case and offer legal assistance. Studies show that an estimated 90 percent of landlords have legal representation, while only 10 percent of tenants do. Without representation, the majority of tenants lose their cases and are ultimately evicted, which can lead to unstable housing situations and possible homelessness.
“At my hearing, Frank and I told the magistrate about the paid rent. He also countered their false claims about criminal activity.
Having Frank there helped a lot. I’ve never been in this situation. I didn’t know what to do. They didn’t have much to go on, other than a false statement. But having Frank there just put all the dominoes in a row so their case could be knocked down.
Frank advised me to apply for the rental assistance again, which I did. All of the back rent is paid and we have rent paid through September  which gave us time to look for a new place to live.
I had to learn a lot and I know my rights as a tenant now. Our landlords tried to bully us by taking our rent, then trying to kick us out.
Having Frank on my side made me feel more confident. I was in a tough situation and Frank gave me hope.”