Health Care

Video: Landlords sometimes illegally refuse lawful rent payments as a pretext to evict tenants

“People that we don’t want their rent because they’ve become a burden on the building, a burden on their neighbors,” said landlord Carol O’Donnell. “They’ve become self-entitled. We don’t want their money, we don’t want the to come. They could go to court to hide behind the lack of rent when we’re trying to get rid of them because we don’t want them.”
Photo for Video: Landlords sometimes illegally refuse lawful rent payments as a pretext to evict tenants

Published on March 21, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

A recently submitted House bill from Representative Leonela Felix, H7893, would require landlords to “complete the landlord portion of an application for federal emergency rental assistance before starting an action for eviction against a residential tenant for nonpayment of rent.”

During the pandemic, the federal government made funds available for the Rent Relief RI a free “program to provide rental and utility assistance to help eligible renters maintain housing stability.” To date the program is on track to provide nearly $200m directly to Rhode Island landlords. The program has successfully prevented the eviction and potential homelessness of many, many Rhode Island families.

Last year the General Assembly passed a law denying landlords the right to discriminate against tenants based on source of income – that is, the use of public assistance money to pay rent. Rent Relief RI is a source of income covered by this law.

Under the law, if a tenant doesn’t have a lease, a landlord can evict them at will. If a tenant has a lease, the landlord can evict them for violating their lease or for nonpayment of rent. There is separate procedure for both of these options under the law.

Rent Relief RI protects tenants unable to pay because of the pandemic, but does not protect tenants who violated their lease. As important a program as Rent Relief RI is, some landlords are refusing to accept these payments as a pretext for evicting tenants for nonpayment. This is a violation of the law.

In the following short video taken from the House Judiciary Committee hearing from last Thursday, March 17th, landlord Carol O’Donnell admitted that she sometimes doesn’t want to accept money from tenants so she will have an excuse to evict them. Eviction Defense Attorney Jordan Mickman with the Rhode Island Center for Justice, points out why doing this is both wrong and illegal.

“People that we don’t want their rent because they’ve become a burden on the building, a burden on their neighbors,” said landlord Carol O’Donnell. “They’ve become self-entitled. We don’t want their money, we don’t want the to come. They could go to court to hide behind the lack of rent when we’re trying to get rid of them because we don’t want them.”

After pointing out O’Donnell’s admission, Attorney Mickman testifies to an experience he had in court where one landlord was refusing $17k in back rent so they could evict a tenant for nonpayment.

Did you enjoy this article?


More Health Care Coverage