Houston-area Landlords Are Still Trying to Collect September’s Rent

Photo credit: Jill Carlson, CC BY 2.0.

Last night, sitting in my stifling apartment because it was unsafe to breathe the ash-filled outside air, I learned that cities I’d once visited—San Juan, St. Maarten—had not necessarily been destroyed by Hurricane Irma, but were “left unrecognizable.”

I closed my laptop and folded my laundry and thought of On the Beach, and how Shute describes his characters still living, still caring about laundry and the work that needs to be done the next day, even after hearing that another city—or, in last night’s case, an island—has lost communication with the rest of the world.

In that sense, you could say that the people in On the Beach are just like us. But when I wrote my Billfold Book Review, I called Shute’s story a fantasy—and for good reason.

This is what reality looks like: landlords going after displaced Houstonians for September’s rent.

From the Guardian:

“Our landlords say we have to pay rent and late fees and every day it is going up,” [Rocio Fuentes] 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.”

Technically, Texas landlords are allowed to collect rent if a property is damaged but still habitable. But parts of Houston are still under water, so I’m not sure the word “habitable” really applies in this case—although that definition isn’t up to me, or to the people who are currently unable to inhabit their rented properties. It’s up to Texas law, and must be argued on a case-by-case basis.

And yes, I know that many landlords depend on that rental income—we don’t all have those expert-recommended cash reserves—and that “one bad break,” as it were, could create financial difficulties for a whole chain of people.

But still. You don’t hustle rent money out of people three days after your city was devastated by a natural disaster. Right?

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