BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – On Thursday, the governor signed into law an act that will protect renters from being illegally evicted – especially after a disaster.
After the recent hurricanes, some renters were being forced from their homes even if they didn’t get much damage. With no access to resources, it can seem impossible to pack up and leave in the wake of a disaster.
Now the law states a landlord can’t evict someone for 30 days after a federally declared disaster or they face a fine. Evacuation cannot be used as evidence of abandoning property.
“If you had 30 days you can at least kind of plan for it instead of some people were in a suitcase on the side of the road,” said Ben Toups, former Houma resident.
Toups and his wife were told two weeks after Ida to leave their apartment. At the time Ben said they were just trying to survive. The complex had already cleared their apartment to be safe enough to stay in right after the storm. They were pushed out and had to move north to Denham Springs.
“There’s no place to go, there’s no u-hauls, there’s no apartments in a hundred-mile radius. There was nothing so we were trying to tell them four walls is all we need. But from all that it’s a rough spot to be told to leave the place that’s the only place you got,” Toups said.
The Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center said this bill is a huge win for renters because even outside a storm the penalties for illegal evictions can help push back against bad actor landlords. The fine is $500 or twice the amount of the monthly rent, whichever is higher.
“They were able to continue to do this and act with impunity as that prior to now there had not been any consequences in our laws for landlords who illegally evicted tenants,” said Cashauna Hill, executive director of Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center.
The law officially went into effect at the start of the month.