Evicted resident Bobby Parker

Sanitation worker Bobby Parker , right, found himself locked out of his apartment for paying his rent four days late. Because of the pandemic, the city's Civil District Court judges had halted all residential evictions, starting on March 13 and extending until at least April 24. And last week, after a legal-aid lawyer from Southeastern Louisiana Legal Services filed a petition on Parker's behalf, the court's on-duty judge ruled that Parker's eviction had been unlawful and ordered Parker's landlady to change the locks back, to fit his key. But Parker's landlady, 92-year-old Bettie Salles, has refused to comply. She hung up the phone when asked about the matter for this story, then sent a text saying: REPORT THIS: pay the $2,395 due in cash today.

The Louisiana Supreme Court’s moratorium on evictions currently set through May 18 must be extended statewide through Aug. 24 in alignment with the federal established Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Evicting people throughout Louisiana in the midst of the current economic and public health catastrophe will cause more homelessness, exacerbate the spread of the novel coronavirus, and increase trauma for our most vulnerable residents. The survival of our state depends heavily on prioritizing housing rights and justice like never before, and our system must not displace renters.

Pay your rent: Louisiana and federal eviction bans not universal amid coronavirus spread

The federal CARES Act offers eviction protections to many renters until Aug. 24 by forbidding owners of certain properties from filing an eviction for nonpayment of rent, charging late fees, or issuing a notice to vacate for any reason until after July 25. A large percentage of renters statewide are covered under the protections of the CARES Act, but neither courts nor tenants will easily understand exactly who is covered due to the inaccessibility of mortgage records and records of housing voucher utilization at private properties. Evictions must not proceed under these opaque circumstances.

We can protect the public health of our community by protecting the housing security of our community. Keeping courts closed will give city, state and federal governments more time to align the necessary policies and resources to protect both vulnerable tenants from eviction and landlords from foreclosure or financial hardships. If courts open before these policies and resources are put in place, we will witness a surge of evictions that will put hundreds of thousands at risk of homelessness and illness. Our local courts that handle evictions are not currently set up to accommodate virtual court proceedings or in-court appearances that involve hundreds of people appearing each day. Eviction courts must remain closed.

DAVIDA FINGER

clinic professor, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law 

SHANA M. GRIFFIN

feminist activist and applied sociologist

New Orleans