Some local renters have chosen not to pay landlords with renter’s assistance money

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NEW ORLEANS—The City of New Orleans’ rental assistance program began as a way to help renters keep a roof over their head and pay landlords what they’re owed during the CDC moratorium on evictions.

But it turns out that some renters have received monies, but have chosen not to pay their rent.

Landlord Denise Irving stated, “The rental assistance program decided to give her(our tenant) the check, that was intended for us. She got the check and out of that check she only gave us $1,000.00 for rent.”

Irving and her sister own a house in the 7th ward on Lapeyrouse St., and they’re one of several New Orleans landlords, whose tenants received rental assistance through the city’s program to help folks affected by the pandemic, but the problem is that as opposed to paying their back rent, the tenant chose to only pay a small portion of the back rent and then move.

Clerk of Civil District Court Austin Badon said, “I’m hearing every day from landlords who are complaining, they’re not getting any rental payments.”

The problem stems from a portion of the rental assistance program that allowed back rent payments to be made directly to tenants as opposed to the landlord to which they are owed. In most cases the payments are several thousand dollars intended to keep families in their homes.

“Its a very good program. A lot of people are doing the right thing but there are a number of people who are not. They’re absconding with the money,” said Badon.

The city’s rental assistance program has doled out more cash than any other in the state. In fact the state has committed to giving the city an additional 30 million dollars, but the city says federal guidelines allowed for some tenants to get money first.

According to Majorianna Willman, Director of the Office Community Development and Housing, “That’s not what the program is designed to do, however, the purpose of treasury allowing tenants to be able to get those funds, was because we had some landlords who just didn’t want to participate.”

Those tenants that have chosen to operate in bad faith have left landlords feeling hopeless

“At the end of the day, we were made by the CDC to house these people to give them coverage, during the pandemic, to protect them. And at the end of the day, the landlords are not being made whole,” said Irving.

Willman also stated that this issue should self-correct because the funding for that specific program has been used up and the round of money they’re currently distributing has to include the landlord.

As for landlords who lost out on getting reimbursed, the rental assistance program will not pay more than once on a property, so their only recourse now is through the courts.

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