Some Landlords Are Using Harassment, Threats to Force Out Tenants During COVID-19 Crisis

Tenants are being put in the precarious situation of having to endure hostility or leave their homes in the midst of a public health crisis

A building tenant hangs a sign from his roof in the Crown Heights neighborhood during a rent strike on May 1, 2020 in New York City.
Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Sada Jones anxiously paces inside her apartment every time she catches a glimpse of her building’s maintenance workers through a damaged glass patio door half boarded up with scrap wood that she says her landlord refuses to repair.

Jones, 23, a hotel cook, has been unable to make rent payments on her New Orleans-area apartment since being furloughed on March 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, she alleges, her landlord began using aggressive tactics to force her out, including cutting off her utilities and sending maintenance workers to demand she leave.

“I’m scared because I don’t want to move with the situation that’s going on with COVID, but I also don’t want to live in these conditions,” she said. “I’m constantly anxious and paranoid about what they’ll do next. I don’t feel safe.”

Despite efforts by many jurisdictions to halt evictions either through formal moratoriums or court closures, some landlords have taken matters into their own hands with illegal “self-help” evictions and have been harassing and intimidating tenants like Jones who are unable to pay rent — many due to pandemic-related job loss — in an effort to get them out.

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