Preston Housing Authority, tenant reach agreement in eviction case

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Preston — The Preston Housing Authority reached an agreement with a tenant contesting her eviction order that calls for the authority to accept her back rent payments and allow her to remain in her Lincoln Park apartment for at least three months.

The Housing Authority had filed an eviction suit against Susan Crowe, 71, a retired nurse, in May despite her claims that her delinquency in rent payments was caused by a disruption in Social Security payments as the U.S. Social Security Administration conducted an audit of her account since her husband’s death in 1988. Crowe had said she provided a letter in January to the Housing Authority that her Social Security payments would be reduced or sporadic during the audit.

In March, she had asked Executive Director Carol Onderdonk for a hardship delay to rent payments. By May, Crowe said the Social Security issues were resolved and she attempted to pay back and current rent. The Housing Authority, however, refused to accept her payments and filed suit in Norwich Superior Court seeking eviction for nonpayment of rent.

Attorney Frank Manfredi, representing the Housing Authority, and New London attorney Sandy Moore, representing Crowe, met prior to her scheduled court eviction hearing Wednesday at Norwich Superior Court and worked out the proposed agreement. The two parties signed it after Moore used a court computer to type the document.

Manfredi said the agreement calls for Crowe to pay three months' back and current rent — checks she provided Wednesday — and the parties asked for a three-month continuance of the eviction hearing. If Crowe continues to abide by all conditions of the lease during that time, Manfredi said the Housing Authority would withdraw the case and offer her a new lease.

Crowe’s April rent payment remained in limbo. At this time, the Social Security Administration has not paid Crowe’s April Social Security check, making her official income for that month, and thus her rent owed, at zero, Moore said. Once Social Security provides the back payment for April, her rent for that month will be calculated based on that payment, Moore said.

“Hopefully, we have come to a great resolution,” Moore said.

Crowe declined to comment on the agreement Wednesday, except to say she is happy with the agreement and relieved that the rent payment issues appear to be resolved.

Housing Authority Executive Director Onderdonk also declined to comment, referring questions to Manfredi.

Separately, New London County civil rights activist Ishmael Schwartzman, who has been supporting Crowe during her dispute with the Housing Authority, has filed a discrimination complaint with the Connecticut Human Rights and Opportunities office, alleging the Housing Authority has engaged in unfair housing practices, including alleged segregation, discrimination in choosing tenants and favoritism among current tenants.

c.bessette@theday.com

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