An extensive investigation, conducted by local news stations, exposed a North Carolina landlord’s exuberant charges and questionable practices towards former tenants; catching the eyes of both the state Department of Justice and Attorney General’s office.
Lisa Eustathiou was first reported on by WCNC and WRAL back in October, following complaints by former tenants surrounding her history of retaining renters’ security deposits.
Eustathiou rents out properties across the state, particularly near NC State and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Her most recent exuberant charge against a group of NC State students has landed her under legal scrutiny, along with seven other formal complaints that the state Attorney General’s office is aware of.
According to WRAL, former tenant Tyler Parziale and a group of other NC State students were given $23,000 in fines from Eustathiou when they moved out of a rental property.
The fines included an $18,000 charge for a large wooden table used for drinking games and studying.
“The size of the complaints are really jaw-dropping,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein told WCNC. “A $23,000 bill for moving out, $18,000 for having a pong table, things that are just beyond the pale of what appears to be reasonable.”
WRAL reports that North Carolina landlords cannot indiscriminately try to collect fees that aren’t agreed upon in a lease or authorized under the state law, according to legal aid.
Eustathiou’s attorney has previously stated, that due to the NC State students’ treatment of the house, they “were not entitled to a refund of their security/damages deposits.” WCNC reports that Eustathiou has also announced she “has no present intention” of collecting any additional fees, but that alone may not resolve this issue.
“As a landlord, I strive to keep my properties in good condition and to be available for tenant requests,” Eustathiou wrote in a letter to Assistant Attorney General Tanisha D. Folks. “I and maintenance personnel are routinely available during business hours, and honestly, most often during non-business hours and holidays as well. Where needed, I do use the security deposit to bring the property to the condition it was in at initial move-in, if not already done by the tenants.”
The North Carolina Attorney General’s office has the authority to pursue restitution and civil penalties if deemed necessary.
“Our job is to make sure that everybody plays by the rules. That’s why we protect consumers,” AG Stein told WCNC. “We are in conversations with her lawyer. We’re hearing back from them, their side of the story and if they either convince us that they’ve done right by these consumers, and they’ve done right by all the other consumers who’ve been affected, we don’t necessarily have to go to court, but if we don’t feel like they are doing the right thing, we will not hesitate going to court to force them to do the right thing.”
The North Carolina Real Estate Commission is also conducting a separate investigation on Eustathiou’s practices. Although investigations by the NCREC usually target unlicensed real estate activity, Eustathiou’s status as a licensed real estate broker, makes the investigation by the commission viable.
Currently, the NCREC office is aware of 24 tenants who have experienced issues with Eustathiou.
“It’s a signal to us that maybe there’s something more going on there and we need to take a closer look,” Thoren told WCNC “I always think that I’ve seen everything and then the next day comes and we see something different.”