Proposed ordinance stands to protect renters from landlord retaliation
BATON ROUGE - Some renters in East Baton Rouge Parish fear they might be punished if they speak up about a problem to their landlord.
It's why the Foundation for Louisiana has been studying landlord-renter relationships over the last six months. The organization, which works for resilient communities, introduced an ordinance at Wednesday's Metro Council meeting. The amended ordinance would prohibit landlord retaliation.
The two provisions of the proposed renters' protection ordinance are that landlords cannot retaliate against renters who request repairs or reach out for help and landlords who retaliate will be held accountable. Any harassment, rent increase, failure to renew a lease, or eviction within six months of a renter's request for help or complaint to the city will be assumed to be retaliation. A landlord found to be retaliating against their tenant will owe the tenant two months rent, attorney's fees, and court costs, as long as the tenant is current on rent.
"We're hoping to get something resolved," said Laquitta Bowers of Foundation for Louisiana. "We're hoping that they can get their issue resolved in a timely manner and that their voice will be heard by not only the landlord but by the city."
Landlord-renter issues are a legitimate concern and common 2 On Your Side story topic. In August, WBRZ covered the story of Yvonne Daniels who had reported problems with her air conditioning that weren't being addressed by her landlord. Another story in April focused on a landlord who was abandoned by her tenant. Other stories include renters who have spoken up and are facing eviction.
In a survey taken over summer 2018, the Foundation of Louisiana found that 39 percent of 138 renters surveyed fear retaliation from their landlord and 40 percent fear their landlord might try to evict them if they report a problem to the City-Parish for a code violation. The results also show that renters report significant repairs and landlords often provide an insufficient response.
Byron Morgan rents from Bella of Baton Rouge Apartments off Boulevard de Province. Last month, Morgan tells 2 On Your Side he discovered mold growing on his furniture, clothing, shoes, and other personal items. It got so bad, he had to throw out his living room furniture and many of his shoes and clothes. Morgan says he called maintenance to investigate, which came by to take photos, but he says the problem was never addressed and he was denied reimbursement for the items he lost.
"They told me I can get out of my lease without getting my deposit refunded or to just basically take it," he said.
WBRZ reached out to the property management, Audubon Communities, and did not hear back.
A public hearing to discuss the proposed amended landlord retaliation ordinance will happen on December 12 in the Metro Council chambers.