LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – After dialing into Jefferson County’s virtual eviction court via Zoom last week, Jahla Fisher had reason to be optimistic about keeping her south Louisville apartment despite being at least two months behind on rent.
Fisher followed the steps that Louisville judges, housing advocates and elected officials like Mayor Greg Fischer have recommended: She showed up to her court hearing and expressed interest in getting some of the $21 million Louisville Metro has set aside to pay back-rents during the pandemic and keep people in their homes.
A “pilot project” in Jefferson County is designed to give tenants at least an additional week to explore assistance options before facing a court order to vacate their house or apartment.
But, after lining up assistance through South Louisville Community Ministries and the Louisville Urban League, Fisher said she learned that her landlord, the Southwood Apartments, would not accept the money.
“It’s very frustrating, trying to go the extra mile and put in the application for the rental assistance, and then they turn around and give us a slap in the face and say, ‘we can’t accept it,’” Fisher said Monday.
She told WDRB earlier this month that she’s been jobless for months during the pandemic.
The landlord, listed in court records as S.W. Apartments LLC, declined to comment, according to its Louisville attorney, Mike Maple.
S.W. Apartments is seeking to evict at least 10 tenants, according to court records, and Fisher said she’s not the only tenant for whom the landlord won’t accept assistance.
Landlords have no legal obligation to accept back-rent, regardless of the source. Once a tenant fails to respond to a notice and cure their delinquent rent, landlords can press forward to obtain the unit.
But city officials are hoping landlords will settle for payments of two or three months’ rent to bring their tenants current.
The Jefferson County Eviction Diversion Pilot Program, which judges and city officials designed to stave off a flood of evictions, requires that landlords waive fines and fees and dismiss their eviction proceeding if they accept the money.
Lyndon Pryor, chief engagement officer for the Louisville Urban League, said Monday’s virtual eviction court hearing revealed that two additional landlords for the Colony and Turtle Creek complexes in the Bashford Manor area also would not accept assistance.
Maple, who also represents those complexes, declined to comment.
Pryor, of the Urban League, said the officials at the West Louisville nonprofit have been “a little bit stunned” to see a few landlords balk at procedural steps necessary to accept the assistance.
“We’re talking about thousands of dollars that has been ready to go,” he said.
Resources for renters and landlords:
Jefferson County, Ky. residents: https://www.stopmyeviction.org/
Kentucky residents: www.kyrenterhelp.org
Indiana residents: http://www.indianahousingnow.org/