Bedbug bill leads to eviction, Savannah woman says

May 21, 2019  by Martin Staunton

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A Savannah woman says a problem with bedbugs and maintenance issues led to her eviction.

The single mother & new grandmother is now looking for a new place to live over a dispute she lost in court with her landlord, Timberland Apartments.

39-year old Juanita Porter says she’s lived in Savannah her entire life, but this is the first time she’s been evicted.

“I’m humiliated,” she said, choking back tears. “It’s really breaking me and if I break, my whole family breaks, because I am all my kids have. And the thing that makes it so bad is I got to put my personal business on the news just to be heard.”

On her final day as a resident, Porter received some of her final guests — a pair of code compliance to investigate her complaints of shoddy maintenance, windows, wall cracks, and bedbugs.

Porter says she should have called long ago when a bad situation grew worse.

“When I moved in Timberland two years ago in A-12, I’d been having problems with mold, plumbing,” she explained, adding that she dealt with flooding and mold. “I’ve lost half of my belongings in A-12. So I got an emergency move in September 2018.”

Once she was moved into the new apartment, Porter said she discovered bedbugs were present.

“Last week of March, first week of April I saw bedbug activity. I was bitten up,” she said, adding, “When I reported it to the landlord, they sent the exterminator out, who confirmed it was bedbugs.”

Porter says there was a $750 fee attached to her rent payment for the bedbug treatment.

“I signed the promise to pay before I found out about the infestation. I was trying to do the right thing,” she said. “Never had a problem with rent. There were times they had to credit me because they were overcharging me from Section 8 and I had to go to my caseworker for her to clarify it.”

News 3 went to the leasing office to speak with someone to get answers. The current property manager at Timberland Apartments identified herself as Miss Sunny.

She declined an on-camera interview saying “no comment.” Miss Sunny cited tenant privacy issues as to why she could not talk to News 3 about Porter’s eviction.

Porter says this situation is taking a toll on two fronts.

“They’re not only retaliating, hurting me financially, they’re hurting me and my children emotionally,” she said, adding, “I lost everything and people know I work hard to get everything I had on my own…on my own and now we’re put out.”

Porter is now out of time to find a new home, but while it may be her first eviction, it’s not her first fight for something she believes is right.

“I fought my way through college. Four long years, for that special day to be taken away from me,” she said. “That’s not right and every time I go and talk to them they and they’re always making it like it’s my fault because I don’t know the codes, I don’t know what’s supposed to be what.  I don’t know what they can get away with.”

Porter says she did sign a promissory note to cover the eviction cost and that’s how the landlord won the case against her. She says she’s stepping forward to remind renters to be very mindful of all the language in the lease, or you could find yourself covering an expense you may not believe you’re responsible for.

Once the code compliance inspection is complete, Timberland Apartments will be notified of any violations found and given time to fix them.