Landlords feel ‘gut punch’ after eviction moratorium extended; assistance not coming quick enough

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 5:34 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The bills are growing faster than the weeds in front of Sandra Dunaway’s rental property.

The tenant in her home has not paid rent since December. She said she is owed nearly $12,000.

“Sixteen hundred dollars a month, so that adds up and it’s like somebody taking income from you,” said Dunaway. “That’s exactly what it is.”

She said she has tried to get assistance from the East Baton Rouge Emergency Rental Assistance Program but the process relies almost entirely on the tenant filling out the forms. She added it took several months to get the tenant to even fill out the forms. Since then, she has not heard anything nor has she seen a dime in assistance to help cover her bills.

“I feel like if the federal government wanted to help landlords, then they would’ve helped landlords. Instead, they got the tenants involved and set the bar really high for the tenants and set the bar really high for the tenants to qualify,” explained Dunaway.

According to Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s office, the rental assistance program, which is funded through federal funds and is bound by federal guidelines, prioritizes applicants who are facing imminent eviction and are either 90 days unemployed or below a certain income level. Tenants are eligible for 12 months of missed rent that will be paid directly to the landlord. So far, EBR has doled out roughly $4 million.

The process is similar in surrounding parishes, though property owners have to go through the state.

In Dunaway’s case, a parish spokesperson said a caseworker is processing the application for assistance but did not offer a timeline on how long it would take for her to see the money if she is approved. The longer that takes, though, the more in debt Dunaway goes as she borrows money to cover her mortgage.

“The tenants are fine. They have a place to live. It’s the landlords losing the money,” noted Dunaway.

The mayor’s office suggested if the tenant is denied assistance or refuses to apply, then that could open the door for eviction but that would ultimately have to play out in eviction court.

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