ACTION JACKSON: Tenants in Baton Rouge complex wake up to notice of property seizure after owner fails to pay nearly $700k in fees, interest

Residents of Baton Rouge apartment complex say they face wrongful conviction after owner claims they owe nearly $700K

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Residents in a Baton Rouge apartment complex on 79th Avenue say they’re scared and confused after receiving a notice stating the sheriff’s office has seized the property because the owner has not paid fees and interest amounting to nearly $700,000. Tenants tell WAFB the owner is refusing to explain what will happen to them.

“He won’t be a man to stand up and tell us, ‘Oh, this is what is going on. This is what you all need to be worried about.’ We are in the blind,” said one of the tenants.

“You steady taking these people’s money, but you are not doing anything. You claim to say you the owner, but the sheriff’s department say it’s up for sale,” said another tenant.

After the sheriff’s office seized the property in June, new management took over, but the tenants say they were still paying their rent money to the previous managers.

“We are all adults, consenting adults that agreed to stay here and pay for somewhere. You want our money? Let us know what’s going on, don’t just take our money and have us in the blind and be up in a bind, a bind we’re already in," said one tenant.

WAFB’s Donovan Jackson got in touch with the former owner of the apartment complex, who says he stopped taking rent once the complex was seized. However, he says he’s working to regain ownership of the apartments. So what happens to the tenants if a deal does not work out and new owner takes over? Will they have to find a new home?

”It is rare that you see landlords buy property and then change the terms of the lease or trying to kick the tenants out, but it can happen. They can legally do that unless that lease is recorded," said attorney, Bryan Jeansonne.

Jeansonne, owner of Lakeland Titles, says there’s one step renters should consider taking: record your lease with the clerk of court so if your landlord happens to change, the terms of your lease will not.

“That new landlord will be bound by that old lease until that lease expires, then they can negotiate a new lease at that point, but if it’s not recorded, they generally don’t have any protections," Jeansonne said.

Jeansonne also advises tenants to continue paying their rent to the current property managers. However, folks living at this complex say they’re wary of paying money when they’re not sure this will remain their home.

The constable’s office says there are currently no pending evictions for the people living in the apartments.

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