PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Mary Bowers lost her job last year after being hurt in a car crash. She filed for Oregon’s Emergency Rental Assistance and qualified.

Over the weekend Bowers, a disabled senior, received a 72-hour eviction notice and has until midnight to pay more than $9500.

Editor’s Note: One day after this story was reported by KOIN 6 News, the OERAP sent 6 months of rent checks to her current property management company, which brought her up to date.

After paying only part of her benefits last year, they reached out in May 2022 to tell her the rest of the year’s rent is covered.

But she moved to a different place in March.

“We confirmed the new landlord because I couldn’t delete the old landlord,” Bowers told KOIN 6 News.

But from July through November, checks flowed to Bowers’ old apartment managed by Wonder Dog Management.

East Point Apartments in Portland, December 19, 2022 (KOIN)
East Point Apartments in Portland, December 19, 2022 (KOIN)

The Oregon Housing and Community Services Department told KOIN 6 News there was a “processing error” that caused the money to go to the wrong management company.

State housing officials didn’t know until Bowers contacted them ahead of Thanksgiving that the checks were going to the wrong place. Wonder Dog Management paid back part of the rent, but OERAP wouldn’t pay her new apartment until they had every dime back.

Emails Bowers provided to KOIN 6 News show Wonder Dog Management claimed she still owed late fees and utilities, though the utilities are part of a lawsuit against Wonder Dog.

The bulk of the money is from a chunk of rent the state should have paid.

That’s due to the way rent assistance was structured in the early days of the pandemic. It started as the Landlord Compensation Fund which would pay 80% of a person’s rent after landlords applied for it, because evictions were under moratorium. The other 20% was to be waived or written off in taxes. Later, Oregon lawmakers passed a change that allocated money for 100% of rent to be paid after a tenant applied for the assistance.

But OERAP was still only paying 80% of Bowers’ rent. Wonder Dog Management kept the 20% it claims she still owes.

“It’s not legal for the landlord to have taken that check, even if they’re the old landlord,” said tenant rights advocate Margot Black. “It’s not legal to pay late fees with that check.

When OERAP contacted Wonder Dog Management in October, Wonder Dog confirmed Bowers lived there — even though emails show the management company confirmed Bowers’ last day was in March.

Tenant rights advocate Margot Black, December 19, 2022 (KOIN)
Tenant rights advocate Margot Black, December 19, 2022 (KOIN)

“The funds were never intended for the old landlord,” said Black. “They were applied for months after she moved out of the old place and she gave proper notice. There was never a dispute about her not being a tenant at that time.”

Black said Bowers’ options are limited as her new landlord, Legacy Property Management, has the legal right to evict her without payment.

“Not receiving the OERAP funds because your former landlord committed fraud is not a defense for an eviction,” Black told KOIN 6 News.

KOIN 6 News sought comment from Legacy Property Management twice. Once they hung up, the second time they took a message.

Wonder Dog Management has not responded to multiple requests for comment to KOIN 6 News.

Oregon housing officials have contacted Bowers, but it’s not clear if they’ll be able to pay her missing rent by midnight Monday — when her 72-hour eviction notice ends.