BETHANY, Okla. - Brandy Mason couldn't believe what she was witnessing.
She said, “I came home Saturday, November 11, to find our lives in a dumpster, everything gone."
Everything, including the family's couch, chairs, beds, their clothes, and Brandy's son's backpack, which someone emptied out and took all of the Halloween candy from inside of it.
“Granted, it's just candy, but the fact I had that bag in a closet zipped up and they went into my home without my knowledge, without any eviction notice, without any legal action on me and took our whole life and threw it away.”
We know the new property manager issued the order, because she told us so.
“Okay, this is for her to handle,” she said. “We've already handled, I've already handled that.”
The manager tells the In Your Corner team she was convinced the family abandoned their apartment, since the power had been turned off for weeks and Brandy was behind on rent.
She said, “You can only assume there can't be anybody living in there especially someone with a 3-year-old.”
Brandy admits she was in the process of coming up with the cash for a utility deposit and until then was spending nights at her sister's place and days at her apartment.
“I'm not denying I’m behind on rent at all, but she had no right to go into my home and take everything away from my children," Brandy said.
The manager showed us an abandonment clause in the lease that she says gives her the authority to change the locks and take back the apartment, without having to go through the legal process of filing eviction.
“When you sign the lease, you follow the complex's laws,” she said.
Here's the thing.
While the abandonment clause appears to be legit, the apartment can only be deemed abandoned if the tenant is behind on rent, appears to have moved out, and taken most of their clothes, furniture, and personal belongings with them.
Management's also required to leave proper notice.
Brandy says the only notice she ever received was threatening eviction, but there is no mention of her abandoning the property.
We asked attorney Brian Bishop, with non-profit Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, why management would throw all of Brandy's stuff away two days prior to the November 13 deadline they gave her on the notice to get caught up on rent.
“To me, that goes towards whether you can really say this property has been abandoned,” he said. “Like you said, they're going through all this trouble to contact her, give her time to pay, make arrangements and then all of the sudden they decide, 'Ah, let's throw away the stuff.'"
The property manager at Western Oak Apartments says she stands by her decision and that’s it.
Brandy's sister went dumpster diving and was able to salvage some things, but not the furniture.
“No, they threw it over the rail,” she said. “It was completely busted.”
Some items though, can't be replaced, like old photos and a special bandanna.
“That belonged to my mother,” Brandy said. “That woman was my best friend. I can't get those back. It's not right.”
This single mom and her kids facing a grim reality right before the holidays.
“I can handle it. I'm an adult,” she said. “They're 2 and 12. They didn't ask for this."
Legal Aid attorneys are still evaluating Brandy's situation, but tell the In Your Corner team based upon the information they've received so far, it appears she has a "pretty strong case."
We're working to get the family some additional assistance.
We'll check back.
Scott repeatedly tried getting a hold of someone with Wehner MultiFamily, the Dallas based company that owns the apartments, but still hasn't heard back.
If you are tenant or a landlord in a dispute make sure you are documenting everything, including notices, emails, phone calls, and notes.
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma has offices around the state and the non-profit law firm provides free or low-cost services to eligible low-income people, and senior citizens.