RUMFORD – Tenants of a tax-acquired apartment building at 438 Waldo St. face eviction deadlines Christmas week, but they say they won’t budge without financial assistance.

Town Manager Len Greaney said Friday that he would extend the eviction deadline to the week ending Jan. 3, if that is legally possible.

“I do not want anyone to have to move during the coming week unless that is their choice,” he said.

Second- and third-floor tenants Mary Hart and Desiree Jessmore, and Jessmore’s boyfriend, Jeff Burns, have until Sunday to leave.

Hart, a diabetic who is disabled and wheelchair-bound, and Jessmore and Burns, who are both disabled, said Friday they would not budge without financial help from the town or others.

Christmas Eve is the eviction deadline for other second-floor tenants: Lacee White, 19, her 2-month-old baby, Autumn, and her fiancé, Nicholes Chamberlain.

White and Chamberlain, a laid-off roofing carpenter, said Friday that they also would stay put. They don’t have money with which to move or get another apartment.

They’re claiming tenants’ rights, which Chamberlain said state that a landlord cannot evict a tenant after Nov. 15 due to the onset of winter.

On Nov. 21 and 24, town officials gave these tenants and others a month to leave due to safety code violations in the building.

Town Manager Len Greaney and town attorney Thomas Carey said Friday that neither liked the idea of ousting tenants at Christmastime.

Both attributed the evictions to unforeseen legal complications that happened since Rumford foreclosed on landlord Betsy Williams’ property earlier this year.

Because Rumford didn’t take an active interest in the building to which it then held the title, the town didn’t possess it, according to Maine law, Carey said.

Williams continued to ensure that heating oil needs were met and expected rents to be paid to her and not to the town.

The tenants said confusion over who owned the building and to whom they should be paying rent had caused most of the problems.

Greaney said he was willing to discuss a work-for-pay arrangement with Hart, White and Chamberlain to support their move, but not with Jessmore and Burns, who Greaney said haven’t paid rent to Williams for the past several months.

Hart objected to the work-for-pay idea.

“We shouldn’t have to work for pay to move, because the town gets money from the state and the federal government to help people. Why should we have to pay it back?” she asked.

Jessmore, who moved into the apartment in October, said she doesn’t owe months of back rent. She said that Williams is currently suing Burns – not her – for $12,000 in owed rent.

Last month, Greaney offered a $500 security deposit to help tenants being displaced by the town from apartments at 426 and 438 Waldo St.

The proviso was that they had to have paid their November rents to Williams.

Several tenants did so and the town is working to complete its voucher process with them for any landlord who provides an apartment to them, Greaney said.

But because Hart, Jessmore, and White, who receive monthly assistance checks from the state, and Burns and Chamberlain, did not pay their November rents, according to Greaney, they couldn’t get the voucher deal.

Greaney said the town gave White $250 to help with her baby’s needs. He also offered them a loan to facilitate the move, but that was rejected.

The town has kept heating oil in the building while trying to sort things out. But tenants worry that will stop when the eviction deadline passes.

When it does, the matter will go before a judge, Carey said. If the judge upholds the eviction, the tenants would be given 48 hours to move out.



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