After Harvey, Landlords Are Demanding Rent From Victims Who've Lost Everything

Bryan Michalek | September 5, 2017
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As Houston residents slowly return to their homes, many are finding their landlords are still demanding rent -- despite the fact that many dwellings have now become uninhabitable thanks to floodwaters. 

In a report from The Guardian, Houston residents shared stories and the uncertain future they face in the wake of the devastating hurricane.

"At first we didn't think it would be that bad, but then the water came through the wall and up through the carpet," resident Rocio Fuentestold the Guardian. "Once we saw the water wasn't going to stop, we left." 

Fuentes said she and her family fled from their home to her sister's apartment with little money and no plan for the future. Now, despite the fact that her home is totally ruined, Fuentes said her landlord is still expecting to be paid.

"Our landlords say we have to pay rent and late fees and every day it is going up," she said. "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." 

Fuentes' husband, Jamie, has been unable to work his construction job due to the floodwaters halting production. This is the case for many Houston residents, creating what The Guardian called "an acute housing crisis."

According to the report, more than 180,000 houses have been badly damaged thanks to Harvey, and only a small fraction of renters own any form of flood insurance. Even worse for these residents is the fact that under Texas law, rent must be paid unless the place of dwelling is deemed completely uninhabitable. 

Since the storm, more than half a million people have applied for FEMA assistance, with $33.6 million already having been approved for housing assistance, the report added. FEMA is also providing around 15,000 survivors with temporary accommodations in hotels and motels, and is in the process of building 4,500 prefabricated houses for displaced families.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner also requested federal aid to help repair homes, but the funds would only cover 35,000 dwellings -- far from being enough.

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