A Dallas County judge has blocked the eviction of a mother with young children from her Mesquite apartment.
It’s a temporary order while a judge determines whether an allegation of forgery against the original court that handled her eviction is valid.
Chantal Hardaway has lived at her apartment complex in Mesquite for three years. She said paid her rent but says an ownership change at the complex led to confusion over billing which led to a constable showing up at her door earlier this month with a 24-hour notice to vacate.
“It was devastating,” Hardaway said. “I was shocked because I never received any paperwork.”
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The paperwork Hardaway is referring to is a notice provided by a court to appear if you want to challenge your eviction.
She says that notice never arrived.
Mark Melton is an attorney at the Dallas Eviction Advocacy Center which provides free legal assistance for families facing eviction.
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He says this case is unlike any of thousands he’s seen before.
“We have a situation where we have a tenant that never got her day in court through no fault of her own,” Melton said.
Melton says notices for an eviction hearing are typically sent on computer-generated timed stamped documents. Melton says the notice produced by Dallas County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2, Place 1 was in the form of a letter with the court’s letterhead at the top.
“This thing looked very odd,” Melton said.
He adds at least one member of the court staff has conveyed that no notice was ever provided to Chantal Hardaway and the letter was created and placed into her court file only after Melton asked for it to be produced earlier this month.
It is an allegation the judge who handled the eviction case strongly denies.
Judge Margaret O’Brien told NBC 5 she has no reason to believe any record was falsified.
“A comment by one clerk, if made, that they did not recall a particular document when they previously flipped through the pages of a file does not mean the document was not in the file. Nor does it validate any accusation of fraud.”
Now a higher court in Dallas County has stepped in. A judge issued a temporary restraining order this week halting any eviction until a hearing August 25 to figure out if the claim of document forgery is valid.