Landlords of residential properties are figuring out ways to cut tenants loose even after they have paid their back rent through the Federal government’s Covid-inspired Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
The Associated Press is reporting that a survey by the National Housing Law Project of legal aid attorneys and civil rights advocates found the vast majority had reported cases of landlords either refusing to accept government-provided payments for rent and ended their lease or took the money and still evicted the tenants. It also reported an increase in landowners lying in eviction trials to get tenants evicted, and others illegally locking tenants out of their homes.
“A number of issues could be described as issues related to landlord fraud … and a set of problems I would describe as loopholes within the … program that made it less effective to accomplish the goal,” Natalie N. Maxwell, a senior attorney with the group, told the AP.
Speaking to the news syndicate, legal aid attorneys from across the country confirmed there was an increase in the number of cases where tenants who had been approved for help with the rent were still facing eviction.
The report cited the case of the mother of a newborn and two other children in Florida whose landlord refused the rental assistance money and later evicted her; a case in Georgia where a landlord who received $20,000 in rental assistance still moved to evict a Navy veteran from a three-bedroom house; and a case in Atlanta where a woman who paid back rent with $15,000 in federal money had her lease canceled seven months early without an explanation.
The AP did reach the Navy veteran’s landlord, Monique Jones, who said she tried to work with him but that he violated his lease by subletting to several people and still owes $12,000, even after the rent aid.
The report added that 29 states and localities nationwide had put in place policies that prohibit landlords who take advantage of the rental assistance program from evicting tenants during a grace period of 30 days to 12 months.
But Bob Pinnegar, president and CEO of the National Apartment Association President, said the National Housing Law Project survey was not based on facts, and that “by and large” landlords are working with tenants to keep them in their homes, having lobbied to get rental assistance out faster.
[Associated Press] — Vince DiMiceli