Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner has a message for landlords: “Please be sensitive.”
After Harvey, reports of landlords evicting tenants and charging late fees have angered the community. In response, Mayor Turner is asking landlords to make the month of September a “grace period” without late fees.
Additionally, the mayor said that landlords charging tenants for rent and fees and then evicting tenants or refusing to make repairs will be considered theft.
“If we determine that any terminations were done improperly or unnecessarily, we will take all necessary measures to protect the rights of those tenants,” Turner explained as he spoke at city hall.
Turner cautioned landlords against using Harvey as a way to evict lower income residents or immigrants. Anyone found discriminating against protected groups will face legal repercussions.
“We are not going to tolerate anybody in this city to be victimized because they may be poor, undocumented or may not speak the language,” Turner stated.
A spokesperson for the Harris County District Attorney said that charges may be filed if landlords are found to be breaking the law.
“When a law has been broken such as fraud or deceptive business practices, we pursue criminal charges,” spokesperson Dane Schiller clarified.
The city’s relief fund will begin distributing recovery funds to struggling residents soon.