As Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Texas, heart-warming stories of dramatic rescues and unyielding resilience of the survivors continued to uplift the collective spirit of the nation.
However, this story, unfortunately, is not one of them.
Houston resident Rocio Fuentes moved in her new apartment with her husband, Jaime, and their five children, ages seven months to 14 years old, just a month before the storm swept through Texas.
Soon after Harvey hit their city, all their furniture was destroyed. “At first we didn’t think it would be that bad, but then the water came through the wall and up through the carpet,” she told The Guardian. “Once we saw the water wasn’t going to stop, we left.”
Fuentes’ mother came to their rescue and dragged them out of the floodwaters in a truck.
However, the family's ordeal was far from over as Fuentes' landlords are demanding they pay the rent.
“Our landlords say we have to pay rent and late fees and every day it is going up,” she lamented. “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.”
Around 180,000 houses in the Houston area were reportedly damaged severely and the laws governing paying rent are not in favor of the renters. According to the Texas property code, if a rental premises is “totally unusable” because of an external disaster then the landlord or tenant can terminate the lease through written notice.
However, if the property is some home usable or “partially unusable” after the disaster, in such a scenario, a tenant may only get a reduction in rent determined by a county or district court.
“There are a lot of property owners who aren’t conscious of what has gone on; they are being rude and kicking people out,” said Isela Bezada, an unemployed woman who lived with 10 family members in a Houston house before her landlord took her to court to evict her after the hurricane hit.
“There are people who have been hit really badly by these floods,” she added. “We are all human beings. We all deserve help.”
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Adrees Latif