Some families in the Houston area being asked to pay rent, with late fees, after Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding to hit southeast Texas and drove them from their homes, The Guardian reported.
“Our landlords say we have to pay rent and late fees and every day it is going up,” Rocio Fuentes, of Pasadena, Texas, told the newspaper. “We are paying rent for somewhere we can’t live in. They said, ‘You aren’t the only ones in this situation,’ but what are we supposed to do? We don’t have any money. We don’t have anything.”
A spokeswoman for Houston city government said officials were aware of such situations, but that state law would have to resolve them.
Under Texas statutes, either a tenant or a landlord can break a lease for residences deemed “totally unusable.” If a property is partially useable, a court would have to determine if rental costs could be reduced.
Meanwhile, hundreds of residents who were forced to evacuate a flooded apartment complex in Katy, Texas, have been given eviction notices, The Houston Chronicle reported.
The residents have been given less than a week to retrieve whatever property they can, a letter from the property manager said. The letter also said rental charges for the last few days of August will be refunded, according to the Chronicle.
Disputes between landlord and tenants are among the first conflicts to emerge in the wake of a hurricane, lawyer Saundra Brown, a disaster manager at Lone Star Legal Aid, told the newspaper.
“Right now there are going to be many landlord-tenant issues: people who don’t think they should give back the security deposit for flooded properties,” she said. “There will be people who will try to kick out their tenants because their brother-in-law needs some place to stay. There’s going to be a severe shortage of rental space in the community.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency expects nearly one million applications for aid stemming from Hurricane Harvey, according to The Dallas Morning News.
FEMA has used vacant hotel rooms to help house 53,630 Texas residents with no place to go, CBS News reported Monday.
Bob Howard, a FEMA spokesman, said the agency is weighing the use of mobile homes as temporary residences for others. Also, displaced residents able to find an apartment on their own can receive two months of paid rent through FEMA and might qualify.