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Evictions During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court of Texas has halted most eviction hearings in Texas until at least May 19, 2020. Many local governments have suspended evictions as well. Click here for a copy of the updated state emergency order. See below for how this might affect you.

If you have gotten a Notice to Vacate, please see our Eviction Answer Toolkit for steps you may take to respond.

Eviction Answer Toolkit - Respond to Eviction

Thanks to Texas RioGrande Legal Aid for help with portions of this page.

Do I still owe rent?

Yes. The emergency order temporarily stopped eviction cases. This does not mean you do not owe rent. It only means that courts will not hear eviction cases until May 19 [updated] at the earliest. This will help some people because landlords must first get a court order to evict a tenant. That means you cannot be evicted so long as courts are not hearing eviction cases. 

Also, none of the extra local protections (see below) say that you do not owe rent. They only temporarily stop evictions.

Unless the CARES Act applies, you may owe late fees as well.

Remember that if you do not pay rent, you may still get evicted when the court eventually hears your case. In most cities, landlords can choose to not accept late rent even if an emergency order prevents them from evicting you right away.

Click here to see a visualization of the governor's temporary eviction rules from BASTA and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.

Can I get help with rent?

Maybe. In addition to the statewide Help for Texans program, some areas have local programs to help residents:

Austin: Austin has created a fund to help individuals and nonprofit organizations. See Austin's RISE Fund site for information on eligibility and how to apply.

Austin also has a RENT Assistance Program, but the application period has ended. For information about your RENT Assistance Program application, go to atxrenthelpinfo.org.

Bexar County (outside of San Antonio): Apply for rental assistance at http://www.habctx.org/TRAM. Funds are limited. Applications are processed on a first come, first served basis. 

Brazoria County: Apply for help with rent and utilities through United Way of Brazoria County (979-849-9402), the Salvation Army (979-233-5420), or Communities in Schools of Brazoria County (979-267-6799). See the flyer in English and Spanish here.

Collin County: Apply for help with rent and other bills through the Collin County CARES program. See Collin County's website for more information: https://www.collincountytx.gov/government/Pages/CollinCARES.aspx.

City of Dallas: Apply for rental assistance at https://app.keysurvey.com/f/41488388/1580. Funds are limited. Applications are processed on a first come, first served basis. (Update: This program has reached capacity and is closed to new applicants.)

Dallas/Fort Worth area residents: Email DallasEvictions2020@gmail.com to see if a volunteer attorney can help you avoid an eviction. 

Denton County: United Way of Denton County has partnered with local organizations to help people with rent during this time. To learn how to apply, see United Way of Denton County's website at https://www.unitedwaydenton.org/crf-partners-eligibility

Fort Bend County: Go to https://www.fortbendcountytx.gov/ for information on how to apply for help in Fort Bend County.

Fort Worth residents: Apply for assistance with rent and other bills through Fort Worth's Emergency Household Assistance Program at http://fortworthtexas.gov/neighborhoods/covid-19-relief-funds/ or call 817-392-5720. Also see if Fort Worth's Community Action Partners program can help you at http://fortworthtexas.gov/cap/apply.

Harris County and surrounding area: See this list of local organizations that provide rent, utility, food, clothing, and other assistance (from the Harris County Housing Authority): http://hchatexas.org/wp-content/uploads/Emergency-Assistance-List-04-30-14.pdf. Harris County will also make relief funds available soon, with applications scheduled to open on June 11.

See also the Houston Apartment Association's list of programs that may be able to assist you at https://www.haaonline.org/financialhelp.

Houston Volunteer Lawyers may be able to help you get a free attorney for your Harris County eviction case.

Hidalgo County: See the county's website to learn how to apply for help with rent and other bills: https://www.hidalgocounty.us/coronavirusupdates.

Houston: Landlords and tenants can apply for help through the Houston Rental Assistance Program. Landlords can enroll beginning on May 7 at 10:00 AM. The landlord must enroll first to put their property in the Participation Directory. 

Tenants who live at participating properties can begin applying at 10:00 AM on May 13. Tenants will need electronic copies of an ID or utility bill in their name as well as a current lease. The tenant must also know how much they owe. If you are a Houston tenant and plan on applying, be sure to ask your landlord to enroll in the program as soon as possible.

Applications are processed on a first come, first served basis. For more information, download the program flyer and go to https://www.houstonrentassistance.org.

Killeen: You can fill out and submit an application for help with rent and utilities in Killeen by going to https://www.killeentexas.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2354/COVID-19-Hardship-Assistance-Application. For more information see KXXV's article and the city website.

Lubbock and surrounding area residents: The Salvation Army is providing rent and utility help. Call 800-765-9434 for an appointment.

San Antonio residents: See if San Antonio's Fair Housing program can help you at https://www.sanantonio.gov/NHSD/Programs/FairHousing. The program can also help with mortgages and utilities, including internet.

Other Areas in Texas: To see if help may be available in your area:

What types of evictions are on hold?

State, local, and even federal government has taken steps to halt evictions.

Statewide Halt on Evictions:

Texas has ended its halt on evictions. Evictions may now take place in Texas unless there are local or national bans that apply to you.

 

Local Halts on Evictions:

Some cities and counties have halted evictions locally. These areas include:

  • Austin: [Updated] Banned landlords from giving both residential and commercial tenants a Notice to Vacate for nonpayment or lease violations until July 25, 2020. (A Notice to Vacate is required prior to filing for an eviction in court.)  Austin also passed a rule that, prior to May 9, required landlords to give 60 days written notice to tenants before they can file for eviction. The tenant has the right to make up for unpaid rent during this 60 days. 
  • Bell County: Halted nonessential evictions until May 8, 2020. (expired)
  • Bexar County: Halted eviction hearings for unpaid rent and lease violations until after June 1, 2020.
  • Brazoria County: Halted evictions until the State of Disaster is lifted.
  • Collin County: Halted evictions hearings until after May 18, 2020 and enforcement of evictions until after May 25. This applies to both residential and commercial tenants. Go here for the updated standing order. See this presentation from Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas for more information on rent and evictions in Collin County. (Note that the presentation is aimed at attorneys.)
  • City of Dallas: Halted evictions for unpaid rent until May 30, 2020. The city also requires a special 21 day "COVID Notice of Possible Eviction" for all evictions. If tenants respond to the COVID Notice within 21 days and show that they have been impacted by COVID-19, the tenant has 60 days to make up unpaid rent.
  • Dallas County: Halted evictions hearings for unpaid rent until June 15, 2020 and evictions until June 22, unless the case was filed by March 10. Late fees are capped at $15 dollars per month. See also the Dallas County Tenants Hotline page for up to date information.
  • Denton County: Other than having to follow state and federal orders, Denton County has not independently halted evictions. However, in addition to relying on state and federal eviction bans, tenants might be able to use Denton County's stay at home order to prevent evictions. Download this presentation from Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas and North Central Texas Aging and Disability Center about evictions in Denton County. (Note that the presentation is aimed at attorneys.)
  • City of El Paso: Halted eviction hearings until June 22.
  • El Paso County: Halted evictions for unpaid rent until at least May 8, 2020. (expired)
  • Harris County: Harris County judges have decided not to schedule any eviction hearings until June, 2020. Actual dates are unclear.
  • Hidalgo County: Extended halt on evictions for unpaid rent until May 7, 2020. Landlords also cannot raise rent during this time. (expired)
  • Montgomery County: Halted evictions until the state issues new rules.
  • Nueces County: Halted evictions for unpaid rent and lease violations until 30 days after the Governor's state of disaster expires. The state of disaster currently expires on May 12, 2020,  but could be extended. So the halt on evictions is currently set to end on June 11, but could last longer.
  • San Marcos: Passed a rule that requires landlords to give 90 days written notice to tenants before they can issue a notice to vacate, prior to filing for eviction. The tenant has the right to make up for unpaid rent during this 90 days. Tenants have a right to get this 90 days notice until the City Council ends San Marcos' disaster declaration.
  • Tarrant County: Halted evictions for unpaid rent and lease violations until further notice.
  • Travis County: Halted evictions for unpaid rent and lease violations until after June 1. The county also bans landlords from giving both residential and commercial tenants a Notice to Vacate until May 8. (A Notice to Vacate is required prior to filing for an eviction in court.) In addition, the county requires landlords to swear that the CARES Act (see below) does not prohibit them from evicting residential tenants.
  • Val Verde County: Halted evictions until June 30.
  • Williamson County: Halted evictions until May 11. (expired)

Be aware that state and federal eviction bans apply locally as well. Local eviction bans are in addition to the federal and state bans. The above list may be incomplete.

 

National Halts on Evictions:

The federal government has prohibited evictions from any apartment complex that takes advantage of the Federal Housing and Finance Agency's (FHFA) COVID-19 forbearance program. This means that if you live in a multi-family building and the FHFA gives your landlord a forbearance on their mortgage, your landlord cannot evict you for unpaid rent so long as the forbearance is in place.

CARES ActCongress recently passed the CARES Act in response to COVID-19. The act halts evictions on any properties that receive financing from the federal government until July 25, 2020. Affected properties include any property that is "insured, guaranteed, supplemented, or assisted in any way, by any officer or agency of the Federal Government." That means properties are not allowed to evict you until July 25 if they:

  • Participate in any qualifying federal housing program, such as Section 8 or Housing Choice
  • Have been partially purchased by or received loans from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac

The act also stops landlords from charging late fees on these properties.

See this Texas RioGrande Legal Aid article on Renter Protections under the CARES Act for more information, including a complete list of all federal housing programs that trigger the CARES Act. 

Also see below for more help figuring out if the CARES Act protects you.

Easy-to-Understand Flowchart

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid has created a flowchart to help visualize the information in this section. View it in PDF or PNG format.

 

What types of evictions can still take place?

Only evictions under Chapter 24 of the Property Code have stopped. Chapter 24 is how owners and landlords remove tenants for unpaid rent and other lease violations.

Evictions due to reasons other than those covered by Chapter 24 can still take place. For example, a victim of domestic violence can still enforce a protective order that removes their abuser from a shared home.

Also, the statewide emergency order makes some exceptions. A landlord can still ask a court to evict you if you, your household, or your guests:

  • Pose a physical threat to the landlord or landlord's employees
  • Pose a physical threat to other tenants
  • Are engaged in criminal activity

How will this affect deadlines for my eviction case?

All deadlines listed in Chapter 24 of the Property Code and Texas Civil Procedure Rule 510 are tolled from March 19 until after May 18 [updated]. That means time between March 19 and May 19 will not count toward any of these deadlines. If you are counting days for a Chapter 24 or Rule 510 deadline, stop your count on March 19 and begin again on May 19.

What if I already lost my eviction case?

If you have already lost a case, the earliest you can be forced to leave your home is May 20, 2020. Even after getting an eviction order, an officer must give you the 24 hours notice to leave the residence. The statewide emergency order says that there will be no 24-hour vacate notices until May 19, so the earliest you can be force to leave your home is May 20. 

The law also gives you five days after you lose your eviction hearing before you can be served the final 24 hours notice to vacate (notice of writ of possession). If you lost an eviction hearing after March 17, the five days stopped counting on March 19 and do not start counting again until May 19.

Appealing your eviction: You normally have 5 calendar days after your hearing to appeal an eviction to County Court. The time between March 19 and May 19 does not count toward those five days. (May 19 does count.)

 

 

When will courts start to hear eviction cases again?

Under the current statewide emergency order, courts will be allowed to start hearing eviction cases again on May 19, 2020. Be prepared to show up for any eviction hearings scheduled after May 18, 2020.

If you live in one of the cities or counties that have extra protections against eviction, you may have more time. 

Can my landlord still file an eviction case against me?

A landlord can still give you an eviction notice and then file an eviction case unless prohibited by the CARES Act. However, the court will not hear the eviction case until the state emergency order expires.

Can I be charged late fees?

The statewide eviction ban did not stop late fees for unpaid rent. Few if any local eviction bans halt late fees either. This means that you could end up owing late fees in addition to unpaid rent.

However, your landlord cannot charge late fees if they are subject to the federal CARES Act.

How do I know if the CARES Act protects me from late fees and eviction?

The CARES Act stops certain landlords from filing evictions for nonpayment until July 25, 2020. Landlords covered by the CARES Act may not charge late fees for unpaid rent during this time either. 

Even after July 25, the CARES Act requires landlords to give tenants a 30 day Notice to Vacate. That means August 24 is the earliest that a covered tenant will have to leave the residence. 

Important: The CARES Act only applies to properties that participate in federal housing programs or that have federally-backed mortgages. (Many properties fall within these categories.)

Note also that the CARES Act does not apply to evictions filed before March 27, 2020, and it does not protect tenants who violate their leases for reasons other than nonpayment. Things like too many people living in a unit, unauthorized pets, and illegal activity may still result in eviction.


So does the CARES Act apply to your landlord? If you live at a multi-family property, like an apartment complex, you can use this tool from the National Low Income Housing Coalition to see if the CARES Act applies to your landlord. (This information is also available on a map made by BASTA, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, and Texas Housers.)

Also, no matter what type of property you live on, the CARES Act applies to your landlord if there is a mortgage backed by Freddie Mac or Sallie Mae or if your landlord participates in a covered federal housing program. For example, the CARES Act applies if you live in public housing or on a Low Income Tax Credit property. See this article from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid for a list of housing programs included in the CARES Act (as well as other useful information).

Unfortunately, some tenants may not be able to easily find out if their landlord has a federal mortgage or participates in qualifying federal programs. Tenants who do not know if the CARES Act protects their housing may need to get this information through discovery after the landlord files for eviction. See below for tips on how to do this.

I am being evicted for not paying rent. What do I do?

Some areas still ban evictions. Be sure to check to see what rules against evictions there might be in your area.

Answer Form

You can use this Eviction Answer Toolkit to file an Answer in your case. An Answer tells the court that you want the landlord to prove that you should be evicted. Our Answer form also allows you to list any defenses to eviction that you may have. In addition to any letters you send your landlord (see below), if you get a Notice to Vacate then you should file an Answer as soon as possible.

CARES Act Affidavit

All landlords must swear to the court that the CARES Act does not bar them from evicting tenants. This sworn statement must be in or attached to the landlords Petition for Eviction (sometimes called a Complaint for Eviction). However, this is a new rule so it may not be followed in all cases. Make sure you to look for this statement in the Petition for Eviction. If the statement is not there, note the absence in your Answer and tell the judge during your hearing.

Landlord Letters

We have landlord letters for some areas. If you get a Notice to Vacate in Austin or Travis County, you can use one of the following letters to tell your landlord that you do not have to move out:

Austin before July 26.

Travis County (outside Austin) before June 2.

If you believe your landlord cannot evict you due to the CARES Act:

You can use this letter to tell your landlord that they cannot evict you due to the CARES Act.

If the eviction case proceeds, you should take any documents that show your landlord is covered by the CARES Act 120 day moratorium to court with you. If you live in public housing or federally subsidized housing, this can be your lease.  For Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties, you can use the Affordable Housing Addendum you and the landlord signed because it states that the landlord is participating in a federal housing program.

If you do not know if the CARES Act applies to your landlord:

You might not know if the CARES Act applies to your landlord. Or even if you do know, you might not have evidence.  If this is the case, you may need to get this information through discovery.

To get the information through discovery, the tenant may ask the court to require the landlord to answer questions by following these four steps:

1. Write a list of questions, called “interrogatories,” that ask the landlord for the following information:

  • Is the property backed by a federal mortgage loan or a federal multifamily mortgage loan?
  • What is the name of the mortgage lender and loan servicer for the property, if any?
  • Does the property participate in any of the following federal housing programs?
    • Public housing 
    • Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program 
    • Section 8 project-based housing 
    • Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program
    • Section 202 housing for the elderly 
    • Section 811 housing for people with disabilities 
    • Section 236 multifamily rental housing 
    • Section 221(d)(3) Below Market Interest Rate (BMIR) housing 
    • HOME 
    • Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) 
    • McKinney-Vento Act homelessness programs 
    • Section 515 Rural Rental Housing 
    • Sections 514 and 516 Farm Labor Housing
    • Section 533 Housing Preservation Grants 
    • Section 538 multifamily rental housing
    • USDA Rural Housing Choice Voucher program.

2. File a Motion for Expedited Discovery that asks the justice court to make the landlord answer your interrogatories under oath. Attach the list of interrogatories to the motion when filing.

 3. After filing the motion, serve the landlord a copy of the motion and the proposed interrogatories. One can serve by mail, fax, hand delivery, or email if the landlord has consented to email service.

4. If the court grants the motion, serve the interrogatories on the landlord by mail, fax, hand delivery, or email if the landlord has consented to email service.

The court will use the landlord’s answers to these interrogatory questions to decide whether the CARES Act protects the tenant from eviction.

Can I still sue my landlord for refusing to make repairs?

Yes, nothing in the emergency order says that you cannot sue for repairs. However, you must still meet all the requirements for such a suit, including being current on rent. Also, courts in your area may be limiting the number and types of cases they are hearing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have a commercial lease. Do any of the COVID-19 eviction protections apply to me?

No. The statewide emergency order and the CARES Act currently only apply to residential property at this time.

If your city or county has additional protections (see above), look at the local order to see if it applies to businesses as well as residences.

If you have trouble making rent on a commercial lease, consider trying to work out a deal with your landlord. Your landlord might be willing to negotiate less rent, a longer lease, or some other solution.

Can I be evicted for getting sick?

No. Your landlord is not supposed to ask about illnesses or other disabilities, nor can your landlord treat you differently than anyone else due to an illness. This includes whether you have COVID-19 or any other illness or disability.

See these articles for more details:

My landlord locked me out without a court order. Can they do that?

No, your landlord cannot keep you out of your home without an eviction order. 

See here for more information on landlord lockouts.

Also, the Texas Justice Court Training Center has made court forms to help you force your landlord to let you back in your home. You can get the forms here. 

I live in a hotel or motel. Can I be evicted?

You may have reason to worry. Hotel and motel guests are not generally considered tenants. That means the hotel owner does not have to get a court to grant an eviction to remove a guest. (The statewide halt on evictions works by stopping courts from issuing evictions.)

However, it is possible for a hotel guest to also be a tenant in some cases. For example, a hotel guest might be a month-to-month tenant if they pay by the month and have lived in the hotel for a long time. Month-to-month tenants are protected by the statewide halt on evictions.

Note that the absence of a lease does not automatically mean you are not a tenant. It is possible to be a month-to-month tenant without a lease.

Read this article from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid for more information on when a hotel guest could be a tenant with eviction protections: https://www.trla.org/hotelsmotels-vs-residential-tenancies-when-eviction-protections-apply.

If you think you might legally be a tenant but get locked out of your hotel room without and eviction order, you can ask the Justice of the Peace to determine your status. Go to the precinct and file for a Writ of Reentry. You can use the following forms:

 

 

Additional Information

Dallas/Fort Worth Area: For those facing eviction in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, email DallasEvictions2020@gmail.com to see if you qualify for legal assistance from volunteer attorneys.

Houston Area: See this FAQ from the the Houston Apartment Association about renting and moving during COVID-19: Coronavirus/COVID-19 Renter Resources. (Download in Spanish)

Statewide: Aid providers throughout the state are working hard to bring you helpful information relevant to COVID-19. Please see the articles below for more resources.

Hotel/Motel Residents: This article from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid talks about how a motel or hotel guest can be a tenant with eviction protections: https://www.trla.org/hotelsmotels-vs-residential-tenancies-when-eviction-protections-apply.

Look to see if the CARES Act applies to your multi-family housing property: https://nlihc.org/federal-moratoriums.

Flowchart of Eviction Moratoriums from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid: in PDF or PNG format.

Video: Evictions Q&A with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas

Attorneys from Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas answer some common questions about evictions during and after COVID-19.

Video: Attorneys Explain CARES Act Protections

Attorneys from Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas discuss tenant protections in the CARES Act.

Eviction Guide and Eviction Appeal Forms

Below is a link to an eviction information packet and useful forms from the Texas Justice Court Training Center. These may help if you 1) need to know how to prepare for an eviction hearing, 2) need to appeal your eviction case, or 2) ask for a new hearing because you received a default eviction judgment against you.

Get the information packet and forms here.

Forms and Landlord Letters

Answer Form - File if you get a Notice to Vacate

Two options:

  • PDF Answer Form: You can fill out and file this form with the Justice Court if you get a Notice to Vacate. Instructions are included.

Letters to Your Landlord

You can use the following letters to tell your landlord that you do not have to move out: