Huntsville apartment complex corrects tenant removal letter mistake

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A Huntsville apartment complex under fire for giving an unexpected 7-day notice and threatening to have police remove tenants who don't comply has corrected its notification mistakes.

Continental Apartments off of University Drive issued a 7-day notice letter on Tuesday morning. It shocked residents and their families.

"No letter, no warning, no notice. They told everyone 7 days," said Alicia Hodges. "There were people back there crying, don't know where they're going to go."

Hodge's mother moved into the complex two weeks ago and had no idea she'd be asked to suddenly leave.

The notice also indicated if tenants didn't leave the Huntsville Police Department would be called to remove them. But that's not how the law says most tenant removals or evictions work.

"It is very improper to use the Huntsville Police Department's name. We can actually use this letter as an intimidation factor for these residents and that is not something we do," said Lt. Michael Johnson with the Huntsville Police Department.

Johnson told WHNT News 19 the only time officers can remove a tenant from a property they rent is if there are current building code violations that are unsafe for those living in the apartment. As a general rule of thumb, police officers do not enforce evictions, instead leaving evictions to play out in the courts.

"We would enforce laws that have nothing to do with civil eviction itself," explains Johnson. "If there's a trespassing violation or a burglary that could have been happening then that's different."

An attorney who represents the new owners of Continental Apartments confirms new letters have been issued giving tenants 30 days notice. The attorney admits giving tenants a 7-day notice was a mistake.

The new owner is out of state and intends to redevelop on the property.

It doesn't take away the moving stress for tenants who live at the complex but it does give them more time to figure out where to go next.

WHNT News 19 has learned city, fire and police officials could be out at the property as early as Thursday to look for possible building code violations.

The Huntsville Police Department said it has resources to ensure residents have a place to stay during the transition if building code violations are found and residents need to leave sooner than expected.

Updated at 7:37 p.m. to amend the attorney's statement.

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