There are some words that a tenant would rather never hear from their landlord, words belonging to the realm of the forbidden. An eviction is a nightmare which comes true for someone already burdened with mortgages, exploitative bank officials and steadily rising unemployment rates and sometimes plagues with all of the above in one go.
An eviction, variously termed as an unlawful detainer, repossession or ejectment has been proposed and implemented as a means for correcting anti-social behavior in many countries around the world. But what do you do when a corrective measure gives rise to crime in itself?
An analysis of the current scenario
In a scenario that looks grim for many householders across the United States, the fear of being removed lawfully or otherwise from your premises looms large for many.
In New Orleans, Louisiana, where the prison population has burgeoned unabated and the homicide rates rank the highest in the States, the Hurricane Katrina dealt a death blow to affordable housing schemes. Being a state with one of the most dense populations of incarcerated parents with colored skin and the HANO (Household Association of New Orleans)having botched up a housing allocation scheme in the past, it is an insurmountable effort for an African American to get a house allocated in time. Even if they manage to get to that, a law forbidding possession before a check of criminal records makes the probability of getting a house plummet to zero.
The legal procedure for eviction used in Arkansas is widely used, which is alarming given the draconian nature of its laws. A tenant squatter is veritably a criminal, and offenders are not given a chance to explain possession beyond the date mentioned in the legal notice issued by the landlord. It indignantly quashes their fundamental rights, they are denied a public prosecutor’s services, assigned minimal time for proceedings in court and forced to pay the full compensation to a landlord, howsoever unjust, if they choose to slug it out the entire duration of the legal ordeal.
Public housing schemes were not primarily meant to house the poor but for certain working sections of society and an ambiguous category called the submerged middle class. Low interest mortgages under FA and VHA schemes post WWII were meant to allow white skinned people access to property in the suburbs, but the African Americans remained limited to the city and the inner suburbs. Federal benefits were dispensed in a manner to facilitate the emigration of the Whites from public housing, which resulted in a downward income shift. Such schemes have been termed discriminatory by the HUD (Housing Urban Development). However, the HUD has by itself targeted low income Hispanic and African American men more often than not, in the wake of stringent laws that prevent drug addicts from availing a housing scheme. Considering that these two populations constitute a growing underclass, the problem is assuming significant proportions. The EEOC policy of 2012 has been established to circumvent the discriminatory nature of such laws, what remains to be seen is how it will be implemented.
The consequences a tenant faces upon eviction
A tenant having a prior eviction record is denied an apartment space by a landlord. Opportunities for future rentals become severely compromised. Landlords-to-be charge exorbitant rates if they choose to allow such a tenant a space to live in, which means poor credit history will make a tenant pay more in the long run.
An evicted tenant has to bear the costs of all legal procedures, added to which is the burden of having their wages garnished as per court orders, which is a further drain on the monetary resources.
Giving birth to crime
Given how stringent state laws, unforgiving landlords, natural disasters, racial discrimination and a restrictive past criminal record can deny someone a house, a proportion of evictees eventually do give in to frustration and take to a life of crime.
Children of incarcerated parents, having survived a hurricane while able to get access to banned addictive substances are ideal candidates for a criminal run. Heads of the household, buried in debt and running from the law, will search for alternative means for earning money, often with disastrous results. Embezzlement schemes, running gangs, extortion and blackmail are but a few of the consequences of being denied the fundamental right to a living space.
Eviction is being used by the Federal Government to contain crime in certain sensitive areas, but how far can we underestimate the desperation of the homeless, with the HPA having quoted homelessness as one of the top contributors to rising crime rates?