ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV.com) - A major owner of apartments around St. Louis is accused of trying to evict tenants without following proper CDC eviction guidelines. In one case, the company is accused of providing bogus documentation to kick someone out.
Taylor Lambert is raising two kids at the Oak Park apartments in north St. Louis County. While pregnant, Lambert says she lost her job at a warehouse.
“I don't have a job, so I'm unemployed, I'm having trouble just paying it in full," she said.
Until recently, she was facing eviction. Lambert printed off a CDC declaration and signed it, it's supposed to give tenants impacted by the COVID=19 pandemic a reprieve from eviction until June 30. But when she took it to her apartment complex’s office, she said, “They refused to take it and kept demanding payment, just make the payment, not taking this, just make the payment.”
Lambert even snapped a photo of it sitting in the manager’s office, but says the eviction notices kept coming.
“We see a landlord that is ignoring the moratorium on evictions and trying to scare people out of their apartments,” said Rob Swearingen of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. He is now Lambert’s attorney.
“They are under an obligation to stop that eviction when they get that declaration. In this case, we know for a fact they didn't,” said Swearingen.
The Oak Park apartment complex is run by Monarch Management Group, a Colorado company that manages 64,000 apartments in 21 states. 25 of those complexes are in the St. Louis area, including the Paddock Village apartments. Swearingen says that complex recently presented a tenant with a fake letter. In bold red letters, it states "Eviction notice, vacate immediately," and lists a phony legal case number.
On the letter is states a message: “You are hereby commanded to vacate this property immediately. A judgement to return possession of these premises to the landlord was entered by the Circuit Court of St. Louis County.”
But it turns out, that's not true.
“This is completely bogus. it has a case number that's not real. our client that received this never was sued,” said Swearingen.
The letter was copied to another attorney, Matthew Chase. He evicts tenants on behalf of Monarch but told News 4 he'd never seen that fake eviction letter. He makes it clear he didn't authorize it and was never actually copied on it either. He also stated that while he may not agree with the eviction moratorium, Monarch is abiding by it.
Taylor says that didn't happen in her case, but after contacting Swearingen, she says the eviction was put on hold. Swearingen wants people to know that the St. Louis County Sheriff is aware of the CDC regulations, and if you believe you got a fraudulent eviction notice, to contact the sheriff’s office.
Another attorney that represents Monarch Management Group told News 4 the employee that created the bogus eviction letter and the one that posted eviction notices on Taylor's door after she turned in the declaration have been fired. That same lawyer makes it clear Monarch will comply with the CDC declaration, and wants tenants to know rental assistance is available.