BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - With the overwhelming loss of jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly everyone will feel some financial hardship during the crisis.
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 on April 1.
Courts are closed statewide and the federal government is preparing to send stimulus checks to millions of Americans, but plenty of tenants are worried their landlords may try to evict them for missing rent in April or May.
Cashauna Hill, executive director of the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, is cutting through the confusion and providing helpful information for residents.
Evictions courts have been suspended across the state until at least April 30. The federal stimulus bill that was recently passed prevents evictions until July 25 for most rentals. The bill also prohibits late fees if you live in a multifamily building or single-family home that has a federally backed mortgage.
"It's not legal for any landlord to threaten eviction or to attempt to evict anyone," Hill says.
Hill says if you have had a note placed on your door recently telling you that rent is due April 1, that note is illegal and is "frankly, something that cannot be acted upon."
"Feel free to reach out for legal assistance," Hill says.
"These moratoriums and suspensions on evictions and foreclosures, those are really only temporary solutions. Renters who have lost their job and incomes are going to struggle to be able to catch up," Hill says. "So the relief bill includes a one-time payment."
Unless Congress expands emergency rental assistance, Hill says she expects to see a wave of evictions once the courts open back up.
"There's a need for long-term emergency assistance," she says.
Even with a suspension on evictions right now, rent payments that come due in April, for example, and in May, if the crisis persists, will have to be paid one way or another at some point in the future.
Hill says to let your landlord know whether you've lost income or your job and ask them to consider waiving rent and late fees if they receive forbearance on their mortgage payments.
“This is really the opportunity for landlords to be a partner in this fight,” Hill says. “By waiving late fees.”
Hill recommends having a conversation with your landlord and reiterated that evictions in the state are currently suspended and that any threat to evict is illegal.
You can call the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center at 877-445-2100 for questions or legal assistance.
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