Property Owners Can Help Renters Hurt by Katrina

By Sara Gebhardt
Saturday, September 17, 2005

Q As I watch and read news reports of the terrible circumstances people in New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., and other places are facing after Hurricane Katrina, I wonder what I can do to help. I am a small-time landlord with two rental properties and I want to know how I can figure out a way to lend my financial support.

One of my tenants wants to break his lease early, and I figure I could do right by everyone if I let him go without a penalty and bring in some tenants who urgently need a home. Since I am nowhere near the Gulf Coast, I wonder how I can make this happen and what kinds of things I should consider before doing so. -- Falls Church

AThere are plenty of benevolent people like you who are aiding the victims of Hurricane Katrina by offering free places for them to stay.

People are being evacuated far away from the Gulf Coast, so the fact that you're in Virginia may not prevent you from doing good.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the housing industry is working to find landlords like you who are willing to donate living quarters to those in need.

With so many apartment-dwellers who lost their homes and their possessions when the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast, the apartment industry has been working with government agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Housing and Urban Development Department to establish a system for housing those left homeless by Katrina.

Because the information about how landlords can lend their services is constantly changing, the Alexandria-based National Apartment Association is compiling up-to-date information on its Web site, .

The group is willing to assist interested property owners or managers in navigating the process for lending aid.

The association's site lists information about Katrina as it relates to landlords and tenants, as well as links to other sites geared toward evacuees and their families, apartment owners, and donors.

According to the apartment association, it is not a fair housing violation to give preferential treatment to disaster victims.

This means that landlords may offer reduced or free rent to evacuees and still charge fair-market rent to everyone else.

The association is also encouraging landlords who give residents free or reduced rent to sign a lease, even if it is for a short time, to provide legal protection.

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