Settlement Helps N.O. area renters facing eviction
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
On November 22nd, members of the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association, along with other New Orleans renters, won a victory on the tenant rights front. On behalf of ACORN, Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund, UNITE HERE, SEIU, and New Orleans renters, Advancement Project obtained a favorable settlement in a lawsuit challenging evictions of tenants from rental properties in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes.
ACORN and the other parties filed suit against FEMA, Clerks of the courts, Justices of the Peace, and Constables in response to the evictions that had been proceeding without notice to the tenants. Louisiana law requires only that lessees whose whereabouts are unknown receive notice by tacking it to the door of the premises; yet most of the tenants have been evacuated and dispersed throughout the country, with no way of knowing that the eviction process is underway.
The agreement reached in Sylvester v. Bossiere, et al., requires FEMA to turn over to the courts in Orleans and Jefferson parishes the addresses of tenants facing evictions, and requires that hearings be scheduled no sooner than 45 days after notice is mailed to the evacuees. In the past, FEMA has refused all requests to provide the addresses of evacuees, even to the State of Louisiana.
"The renters of Orleans and Jefferson Parishes were facing a serious injustice, where no real effort was being made to contact them. And they had no means of redress," says Bill Quigley, professor at Loyola University law school and co-counsel in the suit. "This stay, and the notification requirement, gives residents an opportunity to be heard, to rescue their possessions, and decide whether they wish to return."
*** LINK to copy of Court Order: http://www.neworleansbar.org/documents/USDCorder_002.pdf