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.