As she walked into 1st City Court in New Orleans on Thursday, Pamela Greenberry was ready to boot a tenant from her St. Roch rental property, though she wasn’t too thrilled about it.

Greenberry, a production line worker at a Bunny Bread factory, didn’t see much choice. Her tenant was $11,000 behind on rent. Greenberry, 66, was having trouble paying her note, and her insurance company hadn’t coughed up money for Hurricane Ida repairs, she said.

But by the time a clerk called her case, Greenberry and her tenant were smiling. She’d accepted an offer for $7,000 in rental aid from a city employee stationed at the courthouse. In exchange, Greenberry promised to keep the tenant in place.

“It was good, to a certain extent,” the landlord said. “They should try to assist us before it gets this far.”

A month after a long series of federal and state eviction freezes ended, liberating landlords to oust tenants for unpaid rent, eviction courts in the New Orleans area have rapidly ramped up operations.

But the worst case scenario feared by housing advocates -- that there would be a deluge of new eviction orders -- hasn’t come to pass, in part because of novel programs at Orleans and Jefferson parish courts to intervene with 11th-hour federal aid.

Damage from Hurricane Ida, meanwhile, has forced many renters out of homes deemed uninhabitable, tenant advocates said, short-circuiting efforts to keep them in their rentals while raising fears of a local housing crunch.

> After Hurricane Ida, the search for short-term accommodation has become 'desperate'

Court clerks and constables say the pace of eviction filings is comparable now to what was happening before the pandemic, following a steep slowdown after the yearlong freeze on evictions for unpaid rent. Nationally, the end of a federal moratorium hasn’t led to a surge of evictions either, according to reports.

Austin Badon, clerk of 1st City Court in New Orleans, said east bank landlords filed 430 petitions since eviction hearings resumed unfettered on Sept. 25 – similar to pre-pandemic numbers.

Badon said 1st City Court heard 80 eviction cases last week. At least 20 ended in eviction judgments, with orders for 18 tenants to get out within 24 hours.

Lambert Boissiere, Jr., the court’s constable, said he executed eight eviction orders on Thursday, while across the Mississippi River, 2nd City Court Constable Edwin Shortly described a modest workload.

“To say there was some mass rush to line up everybody and do it -- no,” he said. “I think a lot of it has worked itself out. It seems like a lot of the money the city needed to disburse has gone out.”

The sticking point now for New Orleans landlords is no longer a moratorium, but a backed up docket, Badon said.


Belongings from an apartment on Bienville Ave. are on the curb in New Orleans, La. Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. (Photo by Max Becherer,, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

“Unless some of the judges start increasing their capacity and opening up more dates, I’m booked up through the rest of this year,” he said. “If you are a tenant, you basically can stay in that unit for the rest of October, November, December and part of January, because of the high volume of evictions.”

> New eviction moratorium for areas with high increase in COVID infection to be issued by Biden

The scene is much different across the parish line in Metairie, where emergency rental aid has moved much slower. At the 5th Justice Court, the busiest eviction court in the parish, Justice of the Peace Charles Cusimano ran through a docket of 227 eviction cases on Tuesday alone.

Cusimano, whose office gets a cut of filing fees, opened a spillover room to accommodate all of the pensive tenants and landlord agents toting armfuls of case files.

Most hearings ran a minute or two and ended in Cusimano ordering up an eviction. In some cases, he cajoled landlords to give their tenants a few more days to catch up before calling in the constable.

As she sat between plexiglass partitions to await her fate in Cusimano’s court, Martoria Jones, 49, hoped her troubled year would matter more.

Flushed out of her home in Lake Charles last year by Hurricane Laura, Jones said she spent months shuttling from one downtown New Orleans hotel room to another with two children and a service dog before landing a 2-bedroom apartment at the Citrus Creek West complex in March.

“I got tired of moving. The only thing we had was Red Cross funding us a hotel stay, but we never got help from FEMA,” she said. “I’ve basically been on my own. I’ve been a hustling little mom. My church prayed for me, everybody prayed.”

Jones said she’d started a new job and lost her unemployment when Hurricane Ida sent her packing again, this time for Texas. She returned and paid half the September rent but missed October and soon found a notice on her door.

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She caught a break on Tuesday, though, when an attorney for her landlord, 1st Lake Properties, agreed to accept a few hundred dollars less than the $2,250 it claimed she owed.

“That’s a lot of money,” Jones said as she left the courthouse. “I lost everything.”

By day’s end, Cusimano had ordered 110 evictions, with 50 other cases settled, he said, some with the help of a Jefferson Parish rental aid coordinator.

Cusimano said early delays in disbursing the emergency funds, after a contractor failed to deliver for Jefferson Parish, left many landlords and tenants in the lurch. 

“It’s 20 months of built-up frustration,” Cusimano said of his docket. “There are sad cases where the tenant needs help, but that’s where the program should have worked. They got off to a bad start. You’re seeing that.”

He estimated that half of eviction filings now are “regular old monthly evictions” that happened commonly before the pandemic. “The other half is a backlog of people who are frustrated.”

New Orleans officials said this week that the state reallocated $23 million to the city in recognition of how fast it is getting money out the door compared to other jurisdictions.

According to the city, it had disbursed $21 million in emergency rental funds as of Oct. 11, covering about 7,500 of 18,000 applicants so far.

The city program allows payments of back rent for up to a year, as well as some forward rent.

"It is because of our fiscal prudence that we have these additional funds available for rental assistance that are so desperately needed by our people,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement. “The additional funding will help our residents remain housed while they get back on their feet.”

The money still isn’t coming fast enough for some. Rachel Taber, a member of the immigrant advocacy group Unión Migrante, said she knows of several tenants evicted while awaiting approval.

One renter, Maria de Los Angeles Buyoli, said her February application hasn’t been decided.

> Protesters demand eviction court closures as City Hall's rental assistance lags

With Taber interpreting, De Los Angeles said she’s been forced to take out high-interest loans to keep her home with her two adult sons and daughter-in-law.

“I have no idea what the holdup could be. Unfortunately, we as immigrants and Spanish speakers, a lot of times they just run us around,” she said.

Taber said the city should hire a full-time Spanish-speaking employee for the program.

“Some money is going out, and that’s progress, but it’s not nearly enough,” she said.

Jessica Sawyer, an attorney for Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, noted that judges can’t force landlords to accept even the full back rent. Many tenants on the docket don’t bother showing up to court, she noted.

“There is just no legal defense at this point, so the sum of evictions that have been holding off for a year now are all coming down the pipeline,” Sawyer said. “These evictions are unfortunately inevitable at this point.”

Allen Leone, constable of 5th Justice Court, said he’s executed 50 physical evictions over the month so far. In about 40 of those cases, Leone said he arrived to find the home abandoned.

Leone said he suspects many tenants left for Hurricane Ida and stayed gone. Sawyer, the tenant advocate, said the storm also left many units uninhabitable -- and their tenants out of options.

“They just can’t live there at this point. This isn’t even something we can work out,” she said.

Christoph Bajewski, an attorney who represents large landlords, predicted a rise in local rents as a result.

“There’s going to be a short-term housing struggle,” he said, “because everybody’s being upended.”


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