We were at the start of a new beginning after I suffered a life-altering accident at work in 2016. I hit the back of my head after I fell and suffered a traumatic brain injury that left me without the ability to work. I had been receiving compensation from my former employer as a result of this accident. It caused neurological problems leaving me with a cognitive decline and difficulty understanding things.
My husband had been my in-home health care assistant but without any outside payments. The benefits compensation [from my injury] has never been consistent. We found ourselves accruing [rental] late fees because it never came on the 1st. We asked the apartment manager if we could change the day we paid rent to coincide with the dates I received my benefit checks.
I was stressed from the constant threats to evict. Anytime we requested the accommodation, we were met with either no response or warned of eviction should we not pay the rent. We always paid the rent, and the payments did not preclude us from being charged extra late fees.
I’m thinking, It’s so clear they just don’t want us here. Is it me? Is it because I’m disabled? Is it because you don’t want to change this rule? That was very difficult to live with. In June of 2022, after they refused to post our rent payments, we received an eviction notice. Scared and confused, I became very ill and had to be hospitalized several times. We had rent money sitting in our account to pay through August, but the management only posted late fees and then lawyer fees for the eviction filing.
Worried, my husband called the court and found out no eviction had been filed. With little choice, I filed a complaint with HUD who forwarded it to the Civil Rights Department of the Workforce Commission. They assigned an investigator and filed a complaint on my behalf against the management at the apartment. On the day they received their notice of the complaint, we received a notice stating they would be evicting us.
We asked for a continuance while I was in the hospital. However, they didn’t rule on the continuance until after they ruled on the management’s behalf. We were to be evicted and homeless in [less than] ten days. When you don’t have a lawyer and don’t have money for one, no one listens to you.
When you don’t have a lawyer and don’t have money for one, no one listens to you.
My husband filed for an appeal, and we were granted one. I had been applying for [legal] help but without any response. Until one day I answered the phone, and a kind voice asked to speak to Mrs. Seiferman. He was Ethan Siegel. He introduced himself and had read my story but wanted more information to see if he could help us. I told my story, never expecting him to call back. Several days passed and Ethan called again. We corresponded frequently through October and November. He agreed to take my case and he answered every question I had.
He made me feel protected and cared about. When he found out I was also handling a complaint from HUD, he graciously stepped in to try to help with that. Who was this man? I know that God puts angels on earth because he gave me one.
Ethan and his co-workers at TLSC put together a defense for me and went into uncharted territory. I knew when Ethan said he could take care of it, he would. He always asked and found more research to back up anything he had questions about. I couldn’t believe it when he settled our case. He not only made it so we had a $0 balance but it felt like we won the case. We settled with the landlord who paid us to move on and away from the apartment.
I can tell you that without his help, we would owe so much money that we would have lost everything. We would’ve ended up on the street, I believe, and nobody cares. We went from an apartment complex where I was being screamed at by neighbors to a very beautiful piney East Texas place in a retirement resort. It’s quiet. It’s calm. I don’t know how we would have gotten here without him.
He believed in me and also he cared about us—this was not something I was used to experiencing. Ethan did more than his job; he gave us hope and faith that we would get to a better place. He always worked with ethics and integrity, never making us feel anything but [that] we were worthy of the help he provided. He is one of the few people that let us hold onto our self-respect. What Ethan and the lawyers at TLSC offer is hope. They offer safety and security and make you feel like you matter. You’re not just the person
who couldn’t pay rent.
- Marie, Housing Stability Program Client