LAFAYETTE, La. – (KLFY) Months of uncollected rent or mortgages will become due in one week.

Governor John Bel Edwards’ suspension of all evictions has been extended twice, but Lafayette City Court Chief Judge Douglas Saloom said it’s widely believed the current deadline for June 15 will continue as planned.

He also said some renters and homeowners will have more time to find the money than others.

“We’ve been trying to get the message out to landlords and tenants,” explained Judge Saloom.

He is preparing to rule on hundreds of eviction cases inside the Lafayette City Court starting next Wednesday, starting with eviction notices issued before the stay-at-home order and following with those which will be issued soon.

Because of two separate orders, there are two different dates when eviction notices will be given out: June 16 for the state proclamation, but July 25 under the Federal CARES Act.

As Judge Saloom put it, “In a nutshell, the Federal CARES Act covers property where there was a federally subsidized mortgage, FHA, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, small business, and properties that have a subsidized rental, Section 8.”

Under the CARES Act, landlords must give covered renters a one month notice before eviction, meaning their court date won’t be until the last week of August or later.

“When we hear evictions in late August and September, it’s very possible we could have some landlords and tenants where rent was not exchanged for over five or six months,” admitted Judge Saloom.

“We do believe we are potentially facing a huge crisis in terms of unsheltered homelessness,” added Acadiana Regional Coalition on Housing and Homelessness (ARCH) Executive Director Leigh Rachal.

ARCH is concerned about the ability of people to pay back that money whether it’s in August or June, noting before COVID-19, almost half of Acadiana’s renters spent more than 35% of their income on housing costs.

Rachal said, “Those renters are not in a good position if an unexpected expense or an unexpected loss of income occurs.”

That’s exactly what coronavirus brought to Louisiana. Over 80,000 households filed for unemployment.

According to ARCH, even if a tenth of that number needed help, there are not enough resources to go around, “At this time with the resources that are currently known to be available for that, as well as some private dollars that have been donated in order to assist with that, it’s just a very limited pool of funding, and it will not, I don’t believe come close to meeting the needs.”

There are potential opportunities for additional resources to become available for rent assistance if the state legislature utilizes some of the CARES Act funding for that purpose across the state or if national representatives pass another stimulus bill that includes some rent assistance dollars.

Legal authorities agree it would be best if landlords and tenants create a payment plan now so that families don’t end up living in their cars or on the streets later.

“Communicate. Talk. Try to resolve it. Come to some arrangement,” urged Judge Saloom. “Come to some deal that allows the tenant to stay and the landlord to be protected.”

If you’re behind on rent and need to reach out to your landlord, The Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center provided a template letter.

For further information, Chief Judge Saloom provided this statement:

As of now, June 8, 2020, for matters not protected by the CARES Act, landlords can commence eviction process beginning Tuesday, June 16.  Landlords and tenants involved in eviction proceedings filed prior to March 16 can expect a court date of June 18 at the earliest.  Other evictions not covered by the CARES Act may have notice periods that were not completed by March 16.  Those notice periods begin running on June 16 from where they left off on March 16.  An example, if a landlord of a non-covered property did not give a 5 day notice to vacate prior to March 16 and it was not waived by their lease, then that 5 day notice would start running from June 16.  In that instance, the landlord would have to wait the 5 day period before filing for an eviction.  The Governor’s new proclamation changes nothing for Cares Act covered properties.  Landlords of covered property cannot seek evictions for non-payment of rent until after August 24.  For those properties, landlords should be reminded that the Cares Act requires a 30 day to vacate, even if notice is waived in the lease, and that notice cannot be sent until after July 25.  The 30 day notice takes the place of the 5 day notice.

We continue to strongly urge landlord and tenants to make an effort to resolve unpaid rent.  Landlords and tenants both must realize that good apartments, and/or good tenants are not always easy to find.  If the existing relationship is only clouded due to issues caused by Covid 19 shutdowns it would be very wise to work things out if at all possible as in the long run things should return to pre-Covid 19 relationships.

We also continue to suggest that landlords and tenants contact their attorneys for advice and if one cannot be afforded to contact Acadiana Legal Services.  This is especially true should the eviction be one filed prior to August 24 on a covered property for reasons other than payment of rent.  The Cares Act has created many uncertainties about those type evictions for all parties concerned including the Court.  

Obviously, our court will continue to require an affidavit of non-covered property with all evictions that are filed, even if filed after August 24.  We require one affidavit per covered property not per unit.  So multi-unit properties need provide one affidavit which covers the entire property and not incur the expense of affidavits per unit.  The affidavit is provided by the Court in our eviction packets.

Douglas J. Saloom
Chief Judge, City Court of Lafayette