Manhattan disabled couple faces homelessness after landlord finds loophole in state, federal moratorium

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MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNT) – Alice Nondorf and Gary LaBarge both grew up in the small town of Concordia, running in separate social crowds. However, their paths crossed years later when the connected on Facebook and began their love story.

Nondorf moved to an apartment complex in Manhattan about a year ago, to the same complex LaBarge lives in, and they became engaged.

“I’ve really enjoyed Manhattan and being closer to him, not having to travel all the time,” Nondorf said.

However, that apartment complex ended up causing them more stresses than they could have ever imagined.

In November, the couple said they were given a 30-day notice that the company, ManApart, LLC, a subsidiary of Genesis Health Clubs, would not be renewing their leases.

This is a loophole in state and federal moratoriums that prevent landlords from evictions to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Both Nondorf and LaBarge are disabled and unable to work. LaBarge has stage 4 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and is currently awaiting approval for Social Security Disability Insurance.

The couple applied for funding through the Northeast Kansas Community Action Group and the federal CARES Act, totaling $11,000 to give to ManApart so they could have more time in finding a new home.

However, the company declined the payments, according to the couple, leaving them in a desperate situation filled with worry about how they will find and pay for new apartments, and asking for help through a GoFundMe.

“It’s just a last-stitch effort to try to raise funds to get security deposit, first and last months rent to secure new housing, and to possibly get a lawyer to help us fight the eviction,” Nondorf said.

The couple currently has a court date against ManApart set for Dec. 21, and are able to stay in their current apartments until then.

In a statement from ManApart, as told by their lawyer, the company said they decided not to renew the couple’s leases because they were making illegal copies of keys to other apartments, causing them to change all of the locks in the building. The couple denied these claims, saying the locks were never changed.

Now, they hope their situation brings awareness to others who may be going through something similar.

“To bring awareness to the whole moratorium situation,” LaBarge said. “To help others. It’s not just about us at all.”

A representative from Governor Laura Kelly’s office said they are looking into these loopholes.

Jessica Preston Kerr with the Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice, who is familiar with Nondorf and LaBarge’s situation, said she is seeing more and more people slip through the cracks of state and federal laws prohibiting evictions.

The problem is the policies not being strong enough to keep people safe and at home, Preston Kerr said.

There are multiple organizations across Northeast Kansas fighting for policy change and helping those who have fallen into these loopholes, Preston Kerr said.

“We have a set of relationships and tools that can help tell your story, help get you connected to resources such as Kansas Legal Services,” Preston Kerr said. “Then, also connect you to others who are experiencing the risk of being unhoused during a pandemic.”

The list of organizations Kerr recommended are listed below.

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