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I-Team: Families Forced Out Of Vendi Place Apartments

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jason Allen
Jason came to North Texas after working as a reporter for four y...
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DENTON (CBSDFW.COM) – New owners of the Vendi Place apartments are cleaning house; giving residents just two weeks to get out.

“We’re not behind on rent. We haven’t breached our lease in any way. You can’t just throw us out on the street,” said resident Kimberly Bartek, whose lease is valid through next year. She’s one of about a dozen people who have yet to vacate the apartment complex.

Bartek and her grandson, who has cystic fibrosis, were homeless before moving into their two bed room apartment last year. Their options, much like their finances … are limited. They were incapable of moving by the new owner’s imposed deadline and believe they are now suffering the consequences. The day they were supposed to move out, their hot water went off.

“I kinda thought — this is odd. And then Monday came and went, and there was no hot water, and then Tuesday came and went,” said Bartek, who is seeking help from Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas.

An increasing number of low-income and disabled people are being wrongfully evicted from their apartments, according to the nonprofit. A spokesperson said they aren’t sure if owners don’t know the law or don’t care, but they are concerned about the affect it’s having on people struggling to pay rent.

Vendi Place owner Russ Rifati, however, said he isn’t forcing anyone onto the streets, despite his brother Al, who is in charge of remodeling the property, referring to some residents as “not the best of character.”

“If they want to stay, they’re welcome to stay,” Russ Rifati said. “They just have to respect the rules in the lease, and deal with the noise going on. That’s all I can say  — that’s fair.”

Rifati denied any knowledge of Bartek’s plight. He said a hot water heater at the apartments simply broke down. No one told him of the problem until an attorney for Bartek called, three days after the water went cold.

Remodeling efforts underway by new owners mean little to those who still live on the property, as they know any improvements aren’t meant for their enjoyment. It can’t quell the knowledge, that ultimately, their presence is unwanted.

“Right now everybody here is in fear. Because we don’t know what’s going to happen next,” said Bartek, who doesn’t want to stay, but sadly admits she has nowhere else to go.

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