Motel Closes, Gives Long-Term Renters Just Hours To Evacuate

| by Jonathan Wolfe

Sixteen Tennessee residents living at a local motel were kicked out of their rooms with just a few hours' notice on Tuesday.  

The former occupants, many of whom are on fixed income and social security, were told by Sunshine Inn management on Tuesday morning that they had until the afternoon to move out.

Sunshine Inn is located in Knoxville, Tennessee. The motel was purchased by Chris Burkhart in 2011. According to the hotel’s manager, the property has been a money pit since its purchase. Motel occupants without inside knowledge of the property’s finances were blindsided by the move.

"I pay my rent. My rent is paid off. I shouldn't get evicted because people don't pay their bills at hotels. That's just nonsense," former Sunshine resident Sutton Woodward said.

On Tuesday, staff members went door to door telling residents they had just a few hours to leave. Construction crews were seen tearing down windows in preparation for the building’s demolition.

The Tenessee Child Advocacy Center (CAC) is stepping in to help the evicted residents. The CAC is doling out more than $3,000 so the former tenants can have a place to stay for the next week at a nearby Days Inn hotel.

"A couple of folks that were elderly, we had folks that had disability. Many of them on fixed incomes, we had only family that was living here," said Mary Goodwin of the CAC.

Residents were told that despite paying their full month’s rent for this month, they may not be reimbursed.

There’s an interesting twist in this story. Renters have rights in Tennessee. A landlord must give a tenant 30 days notice before evicting them. A landlord is also forbidden from turning off utilities at a property if utilities are a part of rent and rent payments are up to date. It looks like the occupants here may be able to take some legal action against Burkhart and Sunshine management if they wish to do so.

Burkhart plans to construct a new building on the lot.

Sources: WATE, Site Mason