On Friday, the Charleston Housing Authority had a list of 31 tenants scheduled for eviction at Gadsden Green and other properties.
That changed dramatically this week after three of those evictions were carried out and a story appeared in The Post and Courier with photographs of former tenants' belongings on the curb.
"Within 48 hours, we had 25 of them pay up," Housing Authority Director Don Cameron said. "That's very irregular. I think people looked around and said, 'I don't want to be in that situation.' "
On Monday, the remaining belongings of three tenants who had not paid previous months' rent, whose utilities had been turned off due to non-payment and who had not attended court hearings about their planned eviction, were put out on the curb at Gadsden Green public housing complex by local constables.
State Rep. Wendell Gilliard and state Sen. Robert Ford, both Charleston Democrats, arrived on the scene a short time later, and renewed their call for a proposed law that would require housing authorities to put tenants' belongings in storage temporarily if they are evicted.
Gilliard said Wednesday that he wasn't surprised to hear that people scheduled for eviction paid their overdue rent after seeing others evicted Monday.
"Sure, it scared the bejeezus out of them," Gilliard said.
"We're not trying to stop people from being evicted," he said. "That's their responsibility.
"We're trying to stop the method, the putting stuff on the curb," Gilliard said. "It's Neanderthal."
Marlin Burwell, the manager of Gadsden Green and several other Housing Authority properties, said Wednesday that in most cases, tenants have abandoned an apartment and whatever is left inside by the time an eviction takes place. The process, he said, does seem to inspire other delinquent tenants to pay their rent.
"Anytime that we do an eviction, it usually helps with the rent collection process," Burwell said. "It's strange. I don't know why you would have to see an eviction in order to pay."
Cameron said the tenants who paid their owed rent also had to pay about $50 in court fees.
"If this happens again, we won't take their rent at the 11th hour," he said.
Burwell said that rent delinquencies sometimes rise near the start of the school year, when parents have to spend money to buy school supplies.