Sonja Lee, a mother of two boys, was heartbroken after receiving an insensitive eviction notice complete with a smiling emoji. Like thousands of Americans, Lee has struggled through unemployment and financial struggles during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was overwhelmed because, to be honest, I felt like I was in a big hole and I couldn’t get out of it because I was set back so much,” Lee told PEOPLE. “I’m a single mother of two boys. I do the best that I can and am a very hard-working woman.”
After losing her job at the beginning of the pandemic, the 33-year-old mother was applying for jobs online. Meanwhile, she kept her property managers up-to-date with her situation. However, she received the notice from management just days before she was to start her new job.
The Eviction Notice
“Guess who’s moving? You!!!” the message began, paired with a large and bright smiling emoji. “Pay your outstanding balance, or release your apartment and turn in your key to the leasing office by 6:00 p.m. today. Eviction will be filed promptly Tuesday morning, 8/18/2020.”
Lee lives at an apartment complex operated by Karya Property Management in Houston, Texas. After her story went viral, Swapnil Agarwal, CEO of Karya Property Management, issued an apology. According to Agarwal, the property manager created the notice without corporate approval. They also reprimanded and wrote up the manager.
“I wish I had the time and the resources to reach out personally to every one of them who have dealt with any issues at our properties,” Agarwal told ABC13. “But I am apologizing personally in case it was insensitive, and if she was really trying to work out a payment program with the property or that she was in communication with the manager, then I accept it’s truly our fault.”
Lee told ABC 13 she accepted the apology “wholeheartedly.”
She also said that the local community has shown her family plenty of love since her story came out. One person called her apartment complex and paid two months of rent. Another woman dropped off school supplies for her sons. Lee knows that she’ll get the opportunity to give back in the future.
“I have to pay this forward ten times fold,” Lee told ABC 13.