Joshuwa experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19. Despite qualifying for federal protections, his landlord retaliated and made his apartment inhospitable.
My name is Joshuwa. I live in El Paso, TX with my two children who are 1 and 8 years old. At the beginning of the pandemic, my wife’s work hours were cut until eventually she lost her job, while I’ve been at home dealing with non-COVID related health issues and taking care of the kids. My landlord initially agreed to take partial rent payments because he knew my situation, but eventually he changed his mind. At one point, I received funding from Project Vida to pay some of my back rent, but it wasn’t enough to cover August, September, and October of 2020. That was when the landlord stopped accepting partial rent payments, and became blunt, rude, and openly racist to me and my family.
Over the months that I was unemployed, conditions of the apartment started to get worse due to normal wear and tear. Since he wasn’t getting his rent payments, the landlord refused to make repairs, so I decided to do them myself. When trying to figure out why our cable wasn’t working, I realized that our cable cord had been deliberately cut, and it wound up costing me money to get it replaced. Later, our AC unit was also deliberately broken. Mind you, this was in the thick of Texas summer, when temperatures were quick to reach triple digits. Eventually, some fuses in our home blew, so electricity did not work in half of the apartment, and he refused to fix that as well. He eventually served me eviction papers.
I met with some Legal Aid advisors and told them about my case. They advised me to call the code enforcement department to report the issue, after which they sent a city inspector to check out the conditions. They confirmed that the landlord deliberately broke things to get me out of the apartment. Eventually, my eviction case was dismissed because he did not give me proper notice. Even though I am able to stay in the apartment, it would be with no AC, partial electricity, and a landlord who has been racist and rude to me and my children. He has threatened me with eviction again, and because I don’t want my family to go through that anymore, we moved into my mother-in-law’s apartment.
After all this, I feel like it’s too much of a hassle to fight him tooth-and-nail to make the apartment livable again. I think it will be easier and less tense if we find a new place to live where me and my kids are wanted. My biggest issue with the eviction system is that the landlord is not punished for the way he treated me and the property, so he can keep retaliating against tenants who can’t pay full rent, especially during this pandemic where we are all doing our best to survive. I wish there was a way to prevent him from doing what he did to me to other tenants in the future.