BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Hurricane Ida hit seven months ago, and now lawmakers are tackling the laundry list of problems that arose after the storm through legislation. One bill takes aim at landlords evicting tenants for evacuating.
The bill HB160 by Rep. Mandie Landry looks to prevent landlords from evicting their tenants for at least 30 days after a federally declared natural disaster. It was a big problem that they ran into in southeast Louisiana after Hurricane Ida.
After the storm rocked southeast Louisiana, the borders of Terrebonne Parish were closed off for days. Rep. Tanner Magee said people were already seeing eviction notices before they were allowed in for an inspection.
“It was heartbreaking. You have kids having nowhere to go, being kicked out, having to be put in a tent,” Rep. Magee said.
He said there were bad actors looking to capitalize on the disaster. Many people did not know the laws regarding if they could be evicted during the early days of the recovery, this bill looks to make some clarification.
“What we needed was people to work with people to keep them in housing and we had the opposite by some of the landlords in Terrebonne Parish where they were evicting people or even worse than that they were giving the appearance of evicting people to scare them out of their dwelling,” Rep. Magee said.
The bill would prevent landlords from evicting their tenants on the basis of abandonment if they had to evacuate or the house was severely damaged and they couldn’t return for those 30 days. Ben Toups of Houma stayed in his apartment but was told to leave even with minimal damage.
“You gotta find a place to go when there is no place to go. There’s no hotels, there’s no U-Hauls, there’s no anything. We were so late to the game,” Toups said.
He said he received an email telling him he and his wife had to leave. Only some of the buildings in his apartment complex had moderate to severe damage. Toups said he drove all over the state looking for somewhere to live they could afford since their home was no longer an option.
Some said the bill doesn’t go far enough since it can take months to make a rental livable again after a storm as strong as Ida. A Lake Charles representative said similar pains were felt after Hurricane Laura. But Rep. Landry said she would welcome future legislation but believes the current legislature isn’t ready for such a bill.
“Sometimes four walls, damaged or not, is all you need. It’s literally all you need to survive,” Toups said.
The bill has bipartisan support and passed through the committee with no objection and now heads to the full House for debate. Governor John Bel Edwards shared his support of the bill in a tweet saying, “Suffering damage due to a natural disaster is life-altering. Yet, there are landlords who use it for a cash grab. HB 160 by Rep. Landry will strengthen tenant protections in the aftermath of a disaster, and I’m proud to support it as it’s heard in committee today.”