ATLANTA — An Atlanta apartment complex now says they're waiving all fees for a couple after a severe and sudden illness left one of them paralyzed.
The illness in question happened fast in the home of Chuck and John Giffer. They said they were on vacation one week, and the next, Chuck was on life support in the ICU.
"Within a matter of seven hours, he lost everything," John said. "The only function he kept was that he was able to move his feet."
For a month in the ICU, that is all they had.
"That was our only source of communication with him - his left foot was yes, his right foot was no," he added.
But little by little, John said his husband Chuck has started to make progress.
"About a month ago, he started regaining his facial features," John described. "Before that, it was lifeless and paralyzed."
Chuck was eventually diagnosed with a severe form of Guillian-Barre syndrome, a disease that attacks the nervous system.
When John saw how serious it was, he knew they would have to leave their apartment at Piedmont House.
"I gave them notice on Nov. 30, and they knew of Chuck's condition with a hardship letter," John said.
He explained they were both out of work because of the illness, and as Chuck recovers, he'll have to use a wheelchair. That makes their current apartment unlivable.
"Our unit was on the 18th floor at the end of a long hallway with carpet. So, even if we did modify it, if there was a fire or something, how are we going to get out?" John said.
But John said Greystar Management, which runs the Piedmont House, initially refused to let them out of the lease. He said the management company told him it would reduce the cost to break the lease, but that was still more money than he had, especially with medical bills mounting.
In emails that John forwarded to 11Alive, the management company told him he would have to work it out with its collections agency.
"Collections, collections, collections is all I'm seeing in their emails," he shared. "Just being in the ICU unit all day and knowing that I could be facing phone calls from a collections agency on top of this ..."
11Alive is Where Atlanta Speaks, and they asked us if there was anything they could do to alleviate this burden during an already difficult time.
Our Kaitlyn Ross set out to get answers, but according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is the company's right to send the unpaid balance to collections.
The law is about making the situation equal, so it only considers what a landlord or company would do with any other tenant who could not make payment.
But, in a statement released late Tuesday evening, Piedmont House released the update that appears to be offering exactly what they wanted.
"We sympathize with the residents’ circumstances and when we were initially contacted, the request was for an early lease termination," it read. "A reduced notice period and termination fee amount was mutually agreed upon. After reviewing the matter further, all rent amounts owed after the move out date will be waived.”
Before receiving the news, Johns said the company told him it could move them to an accessible apartment unit. However, that came two weeks after they moved out.
"We already found an accessible apartment with cement floors, an open floor plan. So, why they're offering this now, two weeks after I moved out? I don't know," he said. "I just want it to go away, that's all I want."
An attorney 11Alive spoke to about this situation said the rental company is allowed to enforce any lease that's signed, no matter the condition of the tenants.
But with the collections and late fees, John estimated that it would amount to $40,000 -- $40,000 they don't have.