SAN DIEGO — “I haven't slept. I'm so stressed out. My hair's falling out,” said Brenda Nevarez as she sat with her husband, Abel, on the edge of a bed in a Chula Vista motel.
The couple (related to an ABC 10News employee) spent the previous night moving their four children, two dogs and several plants, into the room as they search for a permanent place to live. They never thought it would come to this.
“He pawned his wedding ring,” said Brenda, referring to her husband. “He pawned his jewelry. He sold all his shoes. -it's just all kinds of things. -we were just selling whatever we could.”
The couple shows a final snapshot taken outside their Chula Vista rental home of 8 years, as they prepared to drive away. In March, they received a 60-day Notice to Vacate, as the owners wanted to sell.
“So, when we received the notice and started looking,” said Abel, “we were like, wow. Like this is insane.”
The couple explained their previous landlord had never raised the rent, and they soon found comparable listings -for homes that could accommodate their four children and two dogs- were now more than twice what they had been paying.
Among other challenges.
“For me this started at the beginning of Covid,” said Brenda, “I was working full time. I work in healthcare. Because of Covid my hours were reduced. I work with elective surgery.”
While Brenda was home, Abel stepped up his hours for a distribution company, but then, said Brenda, “It was back and forth to the doctor. Emergency department - just back and forth, back and forth.”
Medical needs within the family meant more time from work, and more financial demands. Despite the stress, the Nevarez family found they were still above the threshold to qualify for unemployment or disability benefits.
“There is no middle class right now,” said Brenda through welling tears. “We're in limbo. It's either, you’re up here. Or you're poor. And we're neither. We're right in between.”
And they were right in the middle of a credit crunch.
“We have money to pay,” said Brenda, “It's not like we don't have money. We have great jobs, it's just the credit score.”
Strictly by the numbers, the prospects for the Nevarez family to find a new home were bleak, but not impossible.
“You can always make the personal appeal and pen a letter and explain your situation,” said Molly Kirkland, Director of Public Affairs, for the SoCal Rental Housing Association, which represents housing providers. She said renters should understand, landlords will listen and sometimes adjust to extenuating circumstances.
“I think the biggest thing is to be prepared to explain any hiccups in the credit along the way,” explained Kirkland. “Any blank spots in rental history or the like. Because most housing providers will be able to make deviations from their criteria.”
In fact, Brenda was already on a mission of personal contact.
“I kept going over there,” she said of one man with a home for rent, “talking to him, texting him, sending emails. I'm just, you know, back and forth- just like I wanted him to know I really, really need this.”
After a long list of rejections, Brenda said this effort appeared to be paying off, as the landlord said he was willing to work with them.
“Even though it seems like there isn't anyone out there that will help -that will understand your situation- there is one,” said Brenda. “Out of the many, there is always one.”
Aside from personal appeals, Molly Kirkland with the Rental Housing Association, says the first rule in getting a new place, is being first in line. You should be proactive in contacting housing managers and inquire not only about vacancies, but Notices to Vacate,” that tell of future openings. She adds, credit issues can also sometimes be overcome with larger deposits or co-signers if you’re able.
While their housing prospects are improving, the Nevarez family is still recovering financially, and an extended family member has established a GoFundMe account to help them get back on their feet.