West Charlotte motel at risk of closure after some tenants refuse to pay rent

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 7:20 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A west Charlotte motel could be closing down because many of the tenants are reportedly refusing to pay for their rooms.

The general manager of Southern Comfort Inn on Tuckaseegee Road says the governor’s moratorium on evictions, along with stimulus checks from the federal government, are enabling some people to live without accountability.

She says roughly half of her guests are not paying, and as a result, she cannot pay utilities.

“Initially we were a regular hotel,” general manager Traci Canterbury Jones told WBTV. “During the great recession, we realized the lack of affordable housing. We started renting to people on a low and fixed income at that time.”

The Southern Comfort Inn continues to offer extended stays to people on a low and fixed income.

Before the pandemic, Canterbury Jones led after-school programs for children living on the property.

“We give out breakfast and lunches, we give out dinners, we have clothing closets, grocery relief boxes,” Canterbury said. “But I realized that unless people want to help themselves you’re just creating a monster.”

Canterbury said some are sleeping there for free.

“I have one family, she owes almost $13,000,” she said. “She took her kids to Disney World and hasn’t paid a penny on her room.”

She said she has noticed other tenants going on shopping sprees and buying new cars.

Tenants who are making an effort, like Lavora Wilson, share her frustration.

“I try to do what I can do with the little resources or money that I have,” Wilson said.

Wilson applied for rental assistance.

Charlotte City Councilwoman Dimple Ajmeera recommends that all tenants apply for relief.

“It is ultimately the responsibility of the residents to qualify for the relief and ensure that your housing provider gets the relief,” Ajmeera said.

Canterbury Jones says some tenants, including one owing almost $17,000, refuse to apply.

She says if something does not change by May 17, she will be forced to close.

If that happens, Wilson worries about where she will go.

“This ain’t permanent, but at least it’s a place to stay,” she said.

On Monday, volunteers from the non-profit Freedom Communities went door to door to help people apply for rental assistance.

According to a Mecklenburg County spokesperson:

“Dream Key, who is managing the community’s COVID Rent and Mortgage Relief funds, is working with the hotel owner and with hotel tenants and guests to ensure they are applying for this financial assistance. This will support the owner with utility assistance and tenants and guests with hotel rental assistance.”

Canterbury Jones said rental assistance could buy them more time but ultimately she would like the ability to remove people who are refusing to seek help and pay rent.

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