SEPTEMBER 12, 2017

Port Arthur, Texas– Lone Star Legal Aid’s Beaumont Office has filed a request for a temporary restraining order that will force a landlord to halt efforts to discard a tenant’s belongings on the street following Hurricane Harvey flooding. Granted yesterday, the TRO will give the displaced and evacuated tenant the chance to salvage belongings from their home. “Every family deserves the right to try to salvage their personal property, especially treasures that connect them to family and friends. While papers and photos may not be salvageable, china, glass, and other non-porous objects can be saved. Oftentimes, these are the only remembrances that disaster survivors have of their pre-disaster lives,” said Debra Wray Furrh, director of advocacy at Lone Star Legal Aid. “Those connections are important. They help immensely in the recovery process, moving from disaster victim to disaster survivor,” Furrh added.

Landlords have already begun distributing Notices to Vacate and removing tenants’ belongings from their homes, despite the fact that many tenants have not yet been able to return. As tenants face the uncertainty of their employment status, their children’s enrollment in school, or the daunting task of replacing their lost documents, they are also learning that they may no longer have a home and that all of their belongings may have been strewn in ditches, on sidewalks, and along the streets of Port Arthur.

The notices posted on doors and handed out by area landlords state that the lease agreement between the landlord and the tenant is being terminated and that the tenant must move all of their personal belongings out of their homes within 5 days. For some tenants, the 5 days were up yesterday – September 11th. For Harvey survivors that have not returned home or are being housed in FEMA evacuee hotels far away, that’s just not enough time.

Large numbers of Port Arthur residents were relocated during the height of the disaster to Dallas and other cities, where attorneys from Legal Aid of Northwest Texas and Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid began hearing rumors of evictions from the evacuees. They reached out to Lone Star Legal Aid and began referring evacuees who were eager to preserve their right to salvage their belongings. That’s when Tai Ho, managing attorney of the LSLA Beaumont office, decided that filing a lawsuit was the best option to stop a landlord from entering his client’s home and trashing everything in it. Ho, an experienced housing advocate, filed the TRO. With the next hearing set for September 25, Ho’s client now has time to return home and salvage precious belongings.

Tenants who have received similar notices should seek legal assistance as soon as possible.

Featured image credit: Flickr SC National Guard

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