HOUSTON – Cardboard boxes carpeted the floor leading to Lisa Pradia’s kitchen. Bubble wrap, packing tape, and dishes cluttered her counter, as Pradia and her daughter spent the afternoon putting away the memories they had unpacked less than one year ago. Pradia has been evicted, despite being approved for aid to pay her rent after losing her job in March.
There was one person standing between Pradia and the assistance she was desperate to receive, her landlord, who she alleges failed to fill out the necessary paperwork to free up the funds.
“I never thought I’d be in this situation, ever,” Pradia said.
The single mother is among a growing number of Texans facing eviction during a pandemic.
More than half of the Houston area’s population is renting a home or apartment, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The state lifted its moratorium on evictions at the end of May and since that time, the number of evictions cases filed in Harris County court has continued to rise.
“This is tough,” she said to herself as she packed a stack of plates into a box.
Pradia leased her home, located in a subdivision in Richmond, in November 2019. She worked in the real estate industry and looked forward to a new chapter for her and her 16-year-old daughter. After she lost her job in March, Pradia said she used her stimulus check to cover part of her back rent.
“It was March 2 and what I did was immediately I called 211 and they gave me a list of entities to call to try to get help,” Pradia said.
By April, Pradia received word a local charity would help her. All she would need is for her landlord to fill out a W-9.
She called him.
“He told me he’s going to take a look at it and he’ll get back with me, only he didn’t get back with me,” she said.
Pradia said the landlord contacted her again in June to tell her to apply for rental assistance through Fort Bend County Judge KP George.
“I do it. I contact him, let him know that I’ve been approved. So, instead of him saying yes. He sends me this list of what I owe,” Pradia said.
She said never heard from her landlord again about completing the paperwork.
He never did and by June 30, Judge Kelly N. Crow, Fort Bend County Justice of the Peace Pct. 3, ruled in his favor. The decision included $11,752 in court fees and back rent as part of the ruling.
Pradia appealed, which cost her $2,300. She said she borrowed the money. Her hearing is scheduled on July 22. However, with little protection as a tenant in Texas, Pradia fears she and her daughter’s fate is all but sealed.
She said she is scrambling to raise money to move.
“It’s obvious that they don’t care about us the people. So, I have to get my things out of here and then we have to figure out what’s going to happen next,” she said.
A GoFundMe account has been established in Pradia’s name.
KPRC 2 called the landlord for comment. A response remained pending Tuesday.
Pradia, meantime, called for lawmakers to provide better protection for tenants in the state’s housing laws.
She said she shared her story in hopes of putting a face to a problem she suspects will grow as the Coronavirus’ threat on the Houston area lingers.
“I did what I was supposed to do, and it still happened to me,” Pradia said.