The lack of federal rent and eviction freezes and financial support for those unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to spikes in evictions in many states. Lisa Pradia is one of those people who lost their jobs and therefore couldn't pay her rent. Now, she's being evicted, and in her state of Texas, it's perfectly legal.
Landlords all over the country have been showing their true colors during this crisis. Many states haven't implemented rent and eviction freezes, which means that even though more than 40 million Americans are out of work, many of them are still on the hook for monthly rent payments. And lots of landlords still expect rent to be paid in full.
In Lisa Pradia's case, she was actually approved for rental assistance. She just needed her landlord to fill out some paperwork to get it done. But he never got back to her, and then a judge approved her eviction.
Pradia leased her home, which is in a subdivision in Richmond, in the Houston area, in November of 2019. She is a single mom and had a job in the real estate industry. When COVID hit, she quickly lost her job in March. "It was March 2 and what I did was immediately I called 211 and they gave me a list of entities to call to try to get help," she told KPRC 2.
She used her one and only stimulus check to cover part of the rent she owed, and she investigated her options to see if she could get extra help. In April, she was informed that a local charity would help her out. All she needed was for her landlord to fill out a W-9 form.
"He told me he's going to take a look at it and he'll get back with me, only he didn't get back with me," she said. He never filled out the form, so she couldn't get that assistance.
In June, her landlord finally contacted Pradia and told her to apply for rental assistance through Fort Bend County Judge KP George. So that's what she did. She got in touch to let him know that she applied for assistance through the judge and that she was approved.
But instead of helping her through the process, he sent her a list of what she owes in back rent. She said she never heard from her landlord again about the paperwork he needed to complete to allow the assistance to go through.
At the end of June, Judge Kelly N. Crow, Fort Bend County Justice of the Peace Pct. 3 ruled in favor of the landlord and approved Pradia's eviction. The ruling included $11,752 in court fees and back rent that she would owe.
Pradia borrowed $2,300 to appeal the decision, and her hearing is scheduled for July 22. But because there is so little protection for renters in Texas and what her landlord did was technically legal, she's afraid the judge will allow the eviction to stand.
A friend of hers started a GoFundMe to help raise money to help her and her daughter move. The page explains, "We were thankful to hear about the deferment of lease payments that was made available in response to the devastating impact of this pandemic. However, in recent weeks, things have taken a drastic turn as the protections for tenants expired."
"It's obvious that they don't care about us, the people," Pradia said. "So, I have to get my things out of here and then we have to figure out what's going to happen next." She's sharing her story to bring awareness to the lack of protections for tenants during this crisis, and to call on lawmakers to do better.
She believes she's far from the only person who's dealing with a situation like this. Many are being kicked out of their homes because landlords won't do their part or because states have let protections for renters expire even though the pandemic rages on. "I did what I was supposed to do, and this still happened to me," she said.