Hamilton County Attorney General Coty Wamp has been the focus of criticism for his decision to close the Budgetel Inn in East Ridge on Wednesday.
Residents say they were not notified of their eviction ahead of time and were given just four hours to leave.
Some former residents of Budgetel say they will not be allowed to return to claim their property after the eviction.
We spoke with local attorney Robin Flores to find out what rights these residents have.
“It’s not my clothes that’s a problem, if you think this is me you’re going to kick me out… I need to get my stuff,” Flores said.
Robin Flores says the DA’s Office has no right to keep the property of those fired Wednesday morning, citing the ‘Takes Clause’ from the Fifth Amendment. Under the US Constitution the clause states, “Neither shall the private property of the people be taken without just compensation.”
According to Flores, that is a minor issue compared to the lack of due process provided to tenants.
“We are not Stalin Russia, we are the United States, you have to read them,” Flores said.
Flores explained that daily wage earners are not considered to be ‘renting’ the property, giving up their land rights.
However, if a tenant pays month-to-month, they are considered a tenant under the Tennessee Tenant Act and will receive five days’ notice of eviction. In that case, he said, Coty Wamp could be in trouble with the law.
“If he had a chance and decided on his own, he could bring it before the federal court in his individual capacity, by depriving the people of their lease of ownership interests,” said Flores.
Many residents of the Inn reached out to Local 3 asking for help. Chuck Burkhalter says he paid his rent for November and hasn’t gotten his money back.
“If I hadn’t saved my money properly, I wouldn’t have had a place to live,” Burkhalter said.
Burkhalter said she has been paying rent since September and believes many residents are doing the same.
Coty Wamp said the reason the hotel was closed was because of the number of sex offenders it housed and the high level of crime.
Flores, who has been a defense attorney for more than two decades, says he doesn’t know why the District Attorney was so quick to close it.
“He is moving out of the pool and going to the street and it is a little cold at night and there is no place to go, as the inflation has been increasing over the years. It has come holidays, people have already paid their money, and now you’re kicking them out on the street,” said Flores.
According to the DA, the case will be presented in criminal court on Monday.
Flores advises residents who need help to reach out to local churches or the Red Cross for assistance.