As some Kentuckians push for rent forgiveness, others say it’s unconstitutional, unnecessary

As some Kentuckians push for rent forgiveness, others say it’s unconstitutional, unnecessary

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It's May first and for a lot of people that means its time to pay rent.

With the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus, for some, that may now be harder to do than ever before. That’s stirred debate over whether tenants should be allowed to go rent-free until they can get back on their feet again.

Shemaeka Shaw, the founder of the Louisville-based Broken Hearted Homes Renters Association, said businesses are still shuttered, and soaring unemployment claims have meant some people have yet to see financial assistance.

That's why she said she wants one of many Kentuckian's biggest expenses to be eliminated.

"We're going to still need that opportunity to get back on our feet out here," Shaw said. "To get the opportunity to get money to be able to take care of our families. It's not just beneficial for us. It's beneficial for the landlords."

Shaw said she wants to see the currently implemented freeze on evictions extended well past the state of emergency because people will still be dealing with financial hardship. She’s calling on Governor Andy Beshear to forgive rent and mortgages for those unable to pay.

"So, that's anything from March the 6th going forward is forgiven," Shaw said. "That's just not rent. That's utilities, mortgages, all that."

But there are those who disagree.

“That’s clearly unconstitutional,” attorney Stephen Marshall, who runs KYLandlordLaw.com, said. “There’s no legal basis for the governor to interfere in private contracts like that.”

Marshall adds national data, updated last week, shows there's only been a slight decrease so far of people not being able to pay their rent.

"All these ideas that there's this mass struggling is simply off base nationwide," he said. "Anecdotally, its off base in the state."

Shaw sees it differently. She said there were already an alarming number of evictions happening in Louisville before the pandemic, adding she's concerned the city will see a surge of them, if rent is not forgiven.

"We know for a fact, when this comes back, when court goes back into session, there's already a hundred plus cases that have to be heard each day," Shaw said. "There's only two sessions a week."

Marshall said he doesn't expect a surge in cases. He said he believes an increase in evictions would be more likely due to the courts being closed for months opposed to virus-prompted economic hardship.

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