By BAILEY BRITTON
MANHATTAN — Alice McGaughey-Nondorf and Gary LaBarge live in back-to-back one-bedroom apartments, where they were riding out the COVID-19 pandemic in relative peace.
Then, on Oct. 1, the engaged couple received a 30-day eviction notice.
Advocates for the couple say ManApart LLC, a subsidiary of Genesis Health Clubs in Wichita, refused to offer a lease renewal to McGaughey-Nondorf or LaBarge, exploiting a loophole in federal and state bans on evictions. The company did not respond to requests for comment.
LaBarge has Stage 4 COPD, putting him at high risk for complications should he contract COVID-19. The couple applied for rent relief funds through the CARES Act and filed paperwork through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s rent moratorium for nonpayment of rent. The couple received $5,000 each. Both pay around $650 in rent and previously missed payments.
McGaughey-Nondorf said she spent many sleepless nights trying to find ways to prevent the eviction, including starting a GoFundMe page and contacting Jessica Preston Kerr, a community organizer with Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice and Renter’s Together MHK.
“What we have found is that between the federal moratorium and the statewide moratorium, there is this loophole around nonrenewals,” Kerr said. “This is the one way that landlords are able to proceed with an eviction. So technically, Alice and Gary have all of the paperwork they’ve done. They’ve gone beyond what you would ask a tenant to do in this circumstance.”
They received eviction papers on Nov. 13, but secured an extension until Dec. 21 because of a technical problem with ManApart’s paperwork.
“We were like 24 hours from being actually evicted and the court coming down on us,” McGaughey-Nondorf said.
The legal papers from ManApart state the reason for the eviction isn’t nonpayment of rent but rather a desire not to renew the lease.
“So it’s really just kind of an outright kind of power move on their part to put this compromised couple out during a global pandemic,” Kerr said.
McGaughey-Nondorf said she and her fiance have nowhere to go.
“And we didn’t really feel like that was right,” she said. “I mean, we’re not tearing up the apartment or, you know, doing anything illegal in the apartment or having other people living here or anything like that.”
McGaughney-Nondorf said she fears what will happen to her and Gary after Dec. 21.
“We’re just, like, trying to survive,” McGaughey-Nondorf said. “I’m on disability, Gary’s trying to get disability. He is caught up in an appeal process. He has Stage 4 COPD — he has eight years to live — and he’s having to deal with this instead of me spending my time … taking care of his health needs and keeping him safe and loving him in the last couple of years.”
Kerr said it’s likely McGaughey-Nondorf and LaBarge aren’t the only ones in Manhattan facing this issue. People in Kansas City, Lawrence and Topeka are experiencing similar evictions, Kerr said.
“We need to change the narrative of what it means to experience challenges in this moment,” Kerr said. “That it is not people who are kind of victims and or who have done anything wrong. These are structural circumstances that are putting people in a situation such as this that are not right.”
Bailey Britton is the editor in chief of the Kansas State University Collegian. She grew up in Colby.