More than 73,000 people filed for unemployment in one week in Louisiana. Many now face the real possibility of not having enough money to pay rent for this month or the next.
With many people losing jobs and facing financial hardships across the state a lot of people have wondered can they be evicted from their home?
According to Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, it’s illegal to evict someone at this time, they say even though people can’t be evicted at this time they’re getting more and more calls from people who are getting eviction letters.
“Unfortunately we’ve heard of a lot of cases where folks have been threatened or people are trying to illegally lock people out or cut off water or electricity,” said Maxwell Ciardullo, with Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center says that is not okay.
“That is definitely illegal,” said Ciardullo.
My first question was why is it illegal?
“We do have a statewide evection suspension right now,” said Ciardullo. “Because we’re all supposed to stay at home so you have to have a home to be able to stay there.” “Most landlords do the right thing and the situation but there are always bad apples.”
For many who just recently lost their job, this has been a hard period of unknowns.
“I’ve never had a problem paying my bills,” said Briana Cortez, Lafayette resident. “I’ve never had to rely on or have anyone help me pay my bills. It’s just unfortunate I mean we all lost our jobs. It’s completely out of our control.”
Cortez, who lives at the Bradford Apartment Complex says they’re willing to work with her if she signs this agreement below.
“Don’t know what to tell these people,” said Cortez. “I can give them a fourth of my rent so far. And at this point, they’re telling me I need to sign this contract that says I’m going to pay for these certain dates if I don’t they have the right to take legal action,”
In the contract news 15 obtained, it shows the complex has reduced the rate and shifted the payment due dates, but it also includes if the tenants do not meet the new payment plan then the tenant is breaching the lease contract and can be sued for eviction all other legal remedies.
News 15 talked to an employee at the Bradford Apartments who didn’t want to go on camera without a supervisor but says the contract is a good faith agreement and they’re working with the tenets.
News 15 took this information to South East Louisiana Services Staff Attorney Hannah Adams who says, in general, it’s best for both parties to only sign contracts they can follow through.
“In general I would not encourage a tenant to sign a contract which is binding to re-pay past due rent when the tenant does not know or cannot guarantee they will be able to follow through on that agreement,” said Adams. “Because you’re then locking in yourself into a contract that you’re bound to. Which is not a good position for you or the landlord to be in.”
She says the uncertainty is the big factor.
“Right now when we don’t know if the employment checks are going to start showing up or how long the courts are going to closed. We don’t know when people are going to get to go back to work. We don’t know when the stimulus checks are gonna show up. It seems like a recipe for failure for both parties to lock into an agreement that we don’t have enough information yet to ensure it will be successful.”
Issues like these will be coming up more in the next few months. The courts are closed statewide but once they open up Ciardullo says he expects a wave of evictions to come in.
“That’s because the evection suspension is only a temporary solution,” said Ciardullo “It’ll be a struggle to catch up later. So we know as soon as court opens back up we’re scared of seeing a tsunami of events evictions.”
Ciardullo has housing advice for the tenants and the landlords during this pandemic.
“For renters, I would say reach out to your landlord many of them are working with tenants, but you need to initiate it,” said Ciardullo. “If you are a landlord, I think this is really your opportunity to be your partner in the fight against this virus, by waiving late fees, potentially forgiving renters, making payment plans hat work for both parties. Just really stepping up and helping your community.”
The group has prepared a template letter that renters can use to reach out to their landlords telling them about there situation. asking to waive late fees and help make payment plans after the stay at home order is lifted.