“Our landlords say we have to pay rent and late fees and every day it is going up,” Fuentes told the Guardian in an interview. “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 works in construction, and his job is on hold due to the flooding. The family has, at the moment, zero money coming in. Her entire family is currently packed into her sister’s apartment, where they went to escape the flood. The family isn’t insured.
Thousands of homes were damaged by Harvey, with only a small portion of them insured against flooding, and Texas law says that insurance must be paid on a dwelling until its found to be totally uninhabitable.
The law says either the tenant or landlord can terminate the lease agreement via written notice if the property is totally uninhabitable, but if its only “partially unusable,” they still have to pay. The only break tenants get is a possible reduction in rent.
In the meantime, many evacuees are left to depend on shelters and food distribution centers until they can get back to their homes, if the homes are fit to come back to at all. FEMA has already given out over 33 million in aid, and is working to place people in hotels to give them a more secure living situation.