Legal Rights of Tenants During the COVID-19 Crisis

Posted on: March 25, 2020
Updated June 15, 2020. 

Who is protected from eviction and late fees during the COVID-19 Crisis?

Evictions are suspended for all tenants in Louisiana until at least June 15, 2020.

You still legally owe rent for this period of time, and you can be evicted for nonpayment when evictions restart. Even though evictions are banned, your landlord can still give you a Notice to Vacate (an eviction notice). However, if you don’t move, your landlord cannot force you to leave because they cannot file a court petition to evict right now.            

Some tenants have additional protections. Under the federal stimulus law signed on March 27, 2020, there is a 120-day ban (until July 25th) on evictions for nonpayment, and the charging of late fees, for certain properties:

  • Properties that rent to any Section 8 voucher holders
  • Properties that rent to anyone with a US Dept. of Agricultural Rural Development voucher
  • All HUD-subsidized properties like Project-Based Section 8 and Project-Based Voucher properties, HOME properties, HUD-subsidized senior housing, and public housing
  • Properties that receive Low Income Housing Tax Credits (“LIHTC” or “tax credit”)
  • Tenants whose landlords have a mortgage backed by the federal government (like an FHA or other HUD mortgage, a VA mortgage, or a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture mortgage), or a mortgage owned by Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac

For these tenants, landlords cannot give you a notice to vacate for nonpayment until after the 120 days. After that they must give you a 30-day notice. If you receive an eviction notice before July 25th  and you live in a covered property, you have a right to fight the eviction. Contact the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services COVID-19 Hotline at 1-844-244-7871.

How do I know if my landlord is covered by the 120-day ban?

If you live in government-subsidized housing, “affordable housing,” or housing where your rent changes based on your income, or if you have a Section 8 voucher, you are likely covered. It is harder to find out if your landlord has a federally-backed mortgage, but about 70% of single-family mortgages have federal involvement. You can try to look up whether your landlord has a mortgage in the public records (free in Orleans at http://www.orleanscivilclerk.com/onlinerecords.html). However, whether their loan is covered by the below programs may not be recorded. Your landlord may be able to tell you, and, if not, they can look up whether they have a Fannie/Freddie backed loan at one of these websites:

You can try to call these numbers yourself to find out about the loan (let them know you are a tenant and that you want to know if your landlord’s mortgage is covered by their government program):

Fannie Mae: 1-800-2FANNIE (1-800-232-6643)

Freddie Mac: 1-800-FREDDIE (1-800-373-3343)

Federal Housing Administration (FHA): 1-877-622-8525

Veterans Administration (VA): 1-877-827-3702

Dept. of Agriculture (USDA): 1-800-414-1226

Can the Housing Authority terminate my Section 8 or public housing assistance?

All evictions of tenants with Section 8 vouchers or who live in public housing or other federally-subsidized housing are banned until July 25, 2020 (see first section of this FAQ).

The following Housing Authorities have said they are suspending Section 8 terminations during the COVID-19 crisis: Housing Authority of New Orleans, Housing Authority of Jefferson Parish (does not cover Kenner), St. Bernard Parish Dep’t of Housing, and St. Charles Parish Housing Authority. If a delayed hearing, inspection, or contract signing is causing you serious hardship or homelessness, call the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services COVID-19 Hotline at 1-844-244-7871.

What if I can’t afford my rent because I lost income due to the COVID-19 Crisis?

You should pay your rent on time, or try to work out a payment plan with your landlord. Try to get any payment plan in writing. If your rental agreement says you will be charged fees for paying rent late, the landlord might charge you those fees if you do not pay on time. Even though your landlord cannot evict you now, if you don’t make arrangements to pay the rent and fees your landlord could evict you when courts reopen.

Under the federal stimulus law (“CARES” Act) signed on March 27, 2020, many taxpayers will receive a check for around $1,200, plus $500 per minor child, in the coming weeks.

If you live in the City of New Orleans, you rent from a private landlord, and you do not have a housing subsidy: You might qualify for rental assistance. Call the City of N.O. Office of Community Development at 504-658-4200.

If you lost income and live in Section 8, public, or other subsidized housing where your rent is based on your income?

If you lost income and live in Section 8, public, or other subsidized housing where your rent is based on your income, report any income loss right away. If the office is closed, try to email, text, or mail notice to your caseworker or landlord.** Keep a copy of any notice you sent for your records. Give notice even if you do not yet have all the documents they might need. Your rent should be reduced the first day of the month after you report a loss of income. Even if they are not able process your rent reduction now, timely reporting will affect the amount you owe later once they do process the change. If your landlord or the Housing Authority fails or refuses to reduce your rent, talk to an attorney. You can apply for free legal help by calling the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services COVID-19 Hotline at 1-844-244-7871.

** If you are a HANO Section 8 voucher holder, you can complete a self-certification form about your income loss available at http://www.hano.org/Tenants/Forms, and email it to hcvpinfo@hano.org. If you have trouble reaching your worker, you can call (504) 670-3295.

It is very important that if you start getting new income, like unemployment benefits, that you report it and keep a record of reporting it.

What if my landlord locks me out, cuts off my utilities, physically removes my possessions, or threatens to call the police to make me leave?

It is illegal for your landlord to lock you out, throw your belongings out, or cut off your utilities without going through the court eviction process. Your landlord must get a court order to evict you. If your landlord is trying to physically remove you or your belongings from your home, you can call the police if you feel comfortable. The police should tell your landlord to stop. If your landlord tries to evict you without a court judgment, or to force you out by doing other things, seek the advice of an attorney immediately. You can apply for legal help by calling the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services COVID-19 Hotline at 1-844-244-7871.

What do I do if I receive an eviction notice from a court or a Justice of the Peace while evictions are suspended?

If this happens, to you, seek the advice of an attorney immediately. You can apply for free legal help by calling the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services COVID-19 Hotline at 1-844-244-7871.

Contact information for SLLS Housing Law Attorneys

If you call the COVID-19 Hotline please leave a message.

Here are other numbers you can try if you have an emergency and do not receive a call back within 24 hours:

covidhousing@slls.org

New Orleans area: 1-504-529-1000 x.223 (leave a message)

Baton Rouge area: 1-225-448-0080

Houma area: 1-985-851-5687

Hammond area: 1-985-345-2130

For a printable version of the flowchart, click here.

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