The economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused great chaos and damage to the financial stability of numerous Texans and has left many leaseholders unable to pay their rent. According to a Census Bureau survey from early December, 1.7 million Texans said they weren’t going to be able to afford rent; and even more expressed concern that they still would be unable to pay rent in January. 75% of them are families with children. There have been indications for months of an impending pandemic of another kind: a huge surge in evictions as millions of renters continue to fall behind on monthly rent payments. In Texas, as the coronavirus and COVID-19 continue to ravage communities, emergency bans on evictions have been issued to keep people in their homes.
On December 17, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown announced they had extended eviction protections for Travis County families to Feb. 1, 2021. Then, on December 21, the US Congress and the State of Texas temporarily extended some tenant protections like emergency eviction bans called eviction moratoria. Congress passed a new stimulus bill that extends the nationwide eviction moratorium (which was first enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in September) through January 31, 2021. This federal eviction moratorium prevents landlords from evicting tenants for failing to pay rent if they meet certain prescribed criteria. The protections are not automatic; they require renters to submit a declaration before a judge testifying that the tenants satisfy the prerequisites, which include a statement that shows annual earnings of less than $99,000 (or less than $198,000 for couples). When the moratorium comes to an end, tenants will be required to pay the rent that is due; then the eviction process will go on from the point at which it was discontinued before the protections were put in place.
The Texas Supreme Court has built on Congress’s extended eviction protections. It extended its emergency eviction relief program for any tenants behind on rent payments through at least March 15, 2021. The Texas Supreme Court implemented the Texas Eviction Diversion Program (TEDP) in the fall with the help of over $170 million in CARES Act funding, which allocated most of the aid for rental assistance. The TEDP, which is slated to be expanded to 30 communities in mid-January and statewide in late spring, is a voluntary program that aims to reduce the number of evictions during the current pandemic by allowing eligible landlords and tenants to achieve a resolution when those tenants are at risk of eviction because they are unable to pay rent.
MORE ABOUT TEDP
The Texas Legal Services Center has established a toll-free hotline to assist individuals seeking legal assistance at 855-270-7655.
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs has established a website and a toll-free hotline to provide information at 800-525-0657 or 512-475-3800 (pick option 4).
Legal Aid Eviction Portal https://stoptxeviction.org/
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