Tenants Face Difficulties After Hurricane Harvey

In terms of dealing with your landlord after the events of Hurricane Harvey, there are a few issues that you might have to battle before life can return to normal again.  

While some of these issues may resolve themselves rather quickly, others may take weeks or even months.  For example:

  • Some landlords may feel as if they should not have to give back their tenant’s security deposits after the flood damaged the property
  • Some landlords may try and remove a tenant for no other reason than the landlord has a family member or close friend who has also been displaced by the storm and is in need of a place to stay, for the time being
  • Because so many people lost their homes and the shelters are surely close, if not already at the level of capacity, there will likely be shortages of rental space, in the surrounding areas

As of Sept. 5, the Marquis Cinco Ranch apartment complex, which is located in Katy, Texas, told their tenants that they were all being evicted from the building.  The residents were given five days to retrieve their personal belongings.

In a written statement to the tenants, the property manager explained that everyone’s lease was terminated because the entire downstairs floor was completely ruined. In addition, the residents were all told that their rent would be refunded for the last few days of August.

In the case of Sheri Ilo, moving out of the Marquis Cinco Ranch would be just as difficult as escaping the floodwaters.  Because Ilo and her family were rescued from their apartment by boat and are staying with friends, they would require a boat and a moving fan to retrieve their belongings from their apartment, something that she is doubtful will be able to happen in the five-day time frame.

According to Ilo, she received prior emails from the property manager telling all of the residents not to worry about rent for the month of September, to which Ilo responded, “Where do you expect us to go?  This is overwhelming to my neighbors and I. …We all work here in Houston, so we have to go back to work. Do you expect us to commute from San Antonio?”

The Marquis Cinco Ranch is owned under the umbrella of CWS Apartment Homes, which released the following statement:

“The Marquis at Cinco Ranch has been submerged in stagnant water, debris and with intermittent power for a week. Based on these conditions, the community is uninhabitable. We preemptively released our customers from their lease agreements in the hope that it would expedite their relocation process. CWS reserved a number of apartment homes, in the Houston Metropolitan Area, specifically to accommodate our displaced residents. In addition, we offered a $500 relocation assistance credit to help offset their moving expenses. Given the prolonged status of the mandatory evacuation, we sent all of our residents a notification yesterday morning that we would work with them on an extension to move their belongings out should they need one. Also, we are extending the $500 relocation assistance offer.”

Unfortunately, the relationship between the landlord and the tenant is often one of the first relationships to shatter as the full effects of a natural disaster are realized, especially in the cases of flooded homes and/or apartments, late rent checks, and the uncertainty over the next paycheck while everything and everyone is out of sorts from the normal routine.

In the case of Houstonian James Eaton, he was not paid for the week that his employer shut down the business because of the flood.  Therefore, Eaton did not have enough money to pay his rent at the Linda Vista apartment complex.  In the particular case of the Linda Vista apartment complex, residents were informed that late fees would not be waived, even in light of these unusual circumstances, and that tenants who could not pay would be locked out of their apartments.  The Linda Vista apartment complex followed through on their statement.

By law, the only way in which a tenant is allowed not to pay rent is if the owners of the property waive the rental fee. The tenants must still pay rent, even if the rented space is uninhabitable.

The Metropolitan Organization’s Houston officials, as well as members of the clergy, are calling for property managers and property owners to allow their tenants a grace period of at least a three week period.

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