Landlords have also been a source of trouble for tenants seeking aid.
In Louisiana, some have denied the payments because they don’t want to agree to certain program rules — like one that prevents them from evicting tenants for several months after accepting the aid. Tammy Esponge, executive director for the Apartment Association of Greater New Orleans, said that issue was one of the biggest complaints she heard from landlords across the state.
Politics have also polarized the program for some landlords, causing some to not cooperate or even refuse to take the money. One lawyer mentioned a case where the landlord turned the money down because he thought it was communist.
Alabama lawyer Sarah Taggart represented a landlord who refused to let the program write him a check because he didn’t want money from the Biden Administration, despite the program getting passed at the end of Donald Trump’s presidential term. The landlord eventually agreed to take the money directly from the tenant.
“We had to get the check cut to legal services, so legal services could give it to the tenant, and so that the tenant could give it to the landlord, so that the landlord didn’t get any money from Joe Biden,” Taggart said. “That was something.”
But Taggart says situations like that are rare — it’s much more common for landlords to just not trust specific programs, like the one run by Alabama. Her clients said they’d be happy to work with some city programs known for getting money out quickly and efficiently, like Huntsville and Mobile County. But the state program’s reputation for being slow and laborious has the same landlords saying they’re not interested.
“I’d like to say that that’s illogical, but I’ve been dealing with those programs and you never know when you’re going to get paid,” Taggart said. “You can never get someone on the phone. I once got two checks for the same tenant for the same program, which made no sense.”
State programs have improved a lot since they first started — the feds loosened their rules for giving out the cash and the money’s and that’s speeding up the money flow. Alabama’s also bumping some people to the front of the aid line if they’re facing an eviction court hearing.
This story was produced by the Gulf States Newsroom, a collaboration between Mississippi Public Broadcasting, WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama, WWNO in New Orleans and NPR.