Judge allows Ocean Apartment tenants to stay until another hearing is held

Atlantic Beach Apartment Complex Hearing

ATLANTIC BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - The deadline for tenants to move out of an embattled apartment complex in Atlantic Beach has come and gone, but some are still living there.

A judge on Monday decided to allow those tenants to continue calling Ocean Apartments home, for at least another week.

A consent order forced tenants to pack their things and leave the building by July 15, following an undercover investigation that revealed drug use and sales along with rampant gang activity.

But attorneys at the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center said those tenants have rights.

“The solicitor and the landlord agreed that it was in their best interest to agree that the place was a nuisance and to agree to shut it down, but in that process the tenants’ voices weren’t heard,” said attorney Adam Prothoroe.

Prothoroe, representing three of the complex’s ten tenants, argued in court that his clients weren’t involved in any of the alleged criminal activity, saying some had ongoing leases and forcing them to move out means they could face homelessness.

“We were concerned that these tenants were going to become homeless. These folks don’t make a lot of money and there’s not a lot of affordable housing in the area they live in,” said Protheroe.

But the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office said tenants were given over a month’s notice, which they believe is enough time.

“We also realized that those people would lose something. So that’s why we asked to give them enough time to find somewhere else," said 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson.

The solicitor’s office argued in just the last week, drug arrests have been made at the apartment complex, and that the nuisance action is against the building itself not the people who live there.

“We’re not claiming that everyone in there should’ve been arrested or is part of a drug sale. Our claim was that the building itself was being used to allow illicit drug use and drug sales,” said Richardson.

The judge decided to set aside the consent order that would temporarily shut down the apartment complex, allowing tenants to have their day in court before any further decisions are made.

A hearing to decide whether or not tenants will be allowed to continue living in the apartment complex while the case moves through the court system will take place Monday, July 29.

Copyright 2019 WMBF. All rights reserved.