Jessica Nelson got two surprises this holiday season, both unwelcome. First, she was reportedly robbed of her rent money by an intruder who may have taken advantage of her landlord's failure to keep the premises secure. Then the landlord moved to evict her for not paying her rent.
The robbery, promptly reported to Madison police, purportedly took place just after 6 a.m. on Dec. 5, as Nelson was returning to her apartment.
"I was opening my door," says Nelson. "He pushed me in." She says the intruder demanded money and punched her in the face. He left with $950 in cash, including the money she was going to use to get a money order for her rent.
Nelson, 22, is a single mom who works two fulltime jobs. One day last week, her workday stretched from 6:45 in the morning until 1:15 a.m. the following day. She says she told her landlord, Meadows Apartments, about being robbed, but was given only a week to pay in full or face eviction. On Dec. 14, Meadows filed papers to do just that.
But Nelson and her boyfriend think Meadows bears some responsibility for what occurred. The front door to Nelson's apartment building was getting stuck and wouldn't lock - a building code violation. Madison Police Det. Tim Hammond, who investigated the case, says he also noticed this problem and alerted the management company.
When Isthmus visited the property last week Wednesday, the door was still getting stuck. But Nelson says the problem was fixed later that day, shortly after Meadows Apartments was contacted by Isthmus.
This inquiry was fielded by a man named Pat, who declined to give his last name. Pat would not comment on the eviction or building security issues, but said "We've been doing a lot to upgrade this property since we bought it," in 2007. Meadows Apartments - two complexes with more than 400 units and an assessed value of $14.5 million - is owned by Madison Meadows LLC, with a mailing address in Bannockburn, Ill.
Meadows subsequently struck a deal with Nelson, which was ratified during a small claims court hearing this Tuesday. Nelson paid most of her rent for December and January and agreed to a schedule for subsequent payments; in exchange, Meadows stopped trying to evict her.
"Good luck," the court commissioner said, apparently to both parties.
That's the final surprise: This holiday story has a happy ending, after all.