Four Southeast Texas people who had rented homes affected by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 filed a lawsuit seeking financial help from the federal and state governments. The government has already approved more than $5 billion to help property owners affected by the storm, but it has yet to allocate money to renters.
Jon Wilcox is a courts reporter for the Victoria Advocate who’s been following the lawsuit.
“They’re suing the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and [the] Texas General General Land Office,” Wilcox says. “They’re saying that the $5 billion that’s been allocated for hurricane relief is just going to homeowners; none of that is going to renters. And they say that’s a violation of their civil and constitutional rights.”
Wilcox says the plaintiffs have faced adversity after the storm, including having to relocate. Plaintiff Ruth Ortiz from Victoria County had to move after the hurricane broke windows and made it impossible for her to lock her back door. Her landlord refused to fix the damage. But her new place was more expensive.
“She went from about $750 a month to about $1,000. [But] she wasn’t able to afford that rent. So she had to move out of that place [too],” Wilcox says.
What’s more, that place was farther away from the medical services her son needs to treat his brain tumor.
Wilcox says he reached out to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, but they, along with the defendants, wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit because it’s not yet settled.
Wilcox says these kinds of conflicts between renters and landlords are common after natural disasters.
“These are stories that are representative of a lot of people out here. So, I think there is definitely something to these people’s lawsuit,” he says.
Written by Antonio Cueto.