hide my visit

Evictions During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court of Texas has required landlords to swear that they have given tenants proper notice before filing for eviction. Some local governments have gone so far as to suspend most all 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. Even if a you are or were protected by an eviction ban, you still owe rent. Any eviction ban only made it so that that courts will not hear eviction cases until a later date. 

Unless the CARES Act applies, you may owe late fees as well. You still owe rent under the CARES Act, even if you cannot currently be evicted for nonpayment. Note also that the CARES Act only protected tenants from late fees through July 25.

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.

Can I get help with rent?

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

Amarillo/Panhandle area: Apply for rental assistance through the Panhandle Community Services COVID-19 Support Program: https://www.pcsvcs.org/services/covid-19-support.

Amarillo residents may also be able to get help through the city at: http://comdev.amarillo.gov/programs/c-d-b-g/coronavirus-aid-relief-and-economic-security-act-cares-cdbg-cv.

Austin: [Updated 7/22/20] Austin approved another round of rental assistance on July 22. See the city website at https://www.austintexas.gov/rent and the Austin's RISE Fund website at www.austintexas.gov/article/covid-19-relief-state-emergency-rise-fund. More information should be coming soon. 

Beaumont: Beaumont is working with local charities to provide help with rent and utilities. Contact Some Other Place (409-832-7976) or Habitat for Humanity (409-832-5853) to apply. The application can be found here: https://beaumonttexas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Finalized-COVID-Application.pdf

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/cares/Pages/default.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 County: Apply for help with rent through the county's Emergency Housing Assistance Program: https://www.dallascounty.org/departments/dchhs/ehap-cares.php. 

Dallas/Fort Worth area residents: Go to the Dallas Evictions 2020 website or 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

El Paso: Landlords may again apply for help with tenants' rent through El Paso Rent Help: https://www.eprenthelp.org/. Ask your landlord for help if you need assistance. This application period ends August 16.

Fort Bend County: Go to https://www.fortbendcountytx.gov/ for information on how to apply for help in Fort Bend County, or call 281-238-CARE (281-238-2273). (Update: This program started accepting applications again on July 20, 2020. You do not need to reapply if you have applied already.)

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: Harris County residents can apply for help through the Harris County COVID-19 Relief Fund starting on June 23 at 6:00 AM. (Update: Applications are closed for the current round of funding.)

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

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 Hidalgo County Community Service Agency website to learn how to apply for help with rent and other bills: https://hidalgocsa.org/covid-19-assistance/.

Hidalgo Cares is taking applications for rent and mortgage assistance. Find out how to apply at https://www.hidalgocares.org/.

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. (Update: This program is no longer accepting applications.) 

Galveston: Galvestonians can apply for rental assistance from August 10 - 19. Call 409-797-3820 or go to https://www.galvestontx.gov/1105/Short-Term-Tenant-Based-Rental-Assistanc to download an application.

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. (Update: This program is no longer accepting applications). 

Lubbock area: The Salvation Army is providing rent and utility help to the Lubbock area. Call 800-765-9434 for an appointment regarding Salvation Army assistance.

Montgomery County: Apply for rent or mortgage assistance through the Montgomery County COVID-19 Financial Assistance Programhttps://www.mctx.org/departments/departments_a_-_c/community_development/image.php.

Plainview area: You can apply for rent assistance through Plainview Area United Way at: http://www.plainviewareaunitedway.org/.

San Angelo: You can find the application for rent or mortgage assistance through the city's Community and Housing Department herehttps://www.cosatx.us/departments-services/community-housing-support.

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.

See also the City of San Antonio's website for additional services: https://covid19.sanantonio.gov/Programs/Financial-and-Housing-Recovery-Center. Or call 210-207-5910.

Tarrant County: You can apply for help with rent through the Tarrant County Rental Assistance Program:   http://www.tarrantcounty.com/en/county/social-services/rental-assistance-program.html.

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 have taken steps to halt evictions.

Statewide and Local Halts on Evictions:

Texas has ended its statewide halt on evictions. However, the following local governments and courts have temporarily limited evictions:  

  • Austin: [Updated] The city bans landlords from giving both residential and commercial tenants a Notice to Vacate for nonpayment or lease violations until September 30, 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.
  • Dallas County: Will not hold eviction hearings for eviction cases file in July until August 5. The courts will still likely hear evictions for cases filed before July.
  • Bryan/Brazos County (Precinct 4 only): Precinct 4, which covers parts of Bryan and Brazos County, has halted new eviction hearings through August 25. This rule does not apply to all of Bryan or Brazos County -- only Precinct 4.
  • Travis County: [Updated] The county bans landlords from giving both residential and commercial tenants a Notice to Vacate until September 30. (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. (Note: All Texas landlords must now swear that the CARES Act does not prohibit eviction.)

Some individual courts outside of Travis County and Austin may have chosen not to hear evictions at this time, but do not rely on this. Be sure to appear for any scheduled eviction hearing. 

Individual Precincts - The following precincts have said they will not hold eviction hearings until late August:

 

Be aware that any federal eviction bans apply locally as well. Local eviction bans are in addition to the federal bans. 

 

Special Tenant Rights

The cities of Dallas, San Antonio, and San Marcos no longer ban evictions but do give tenants special rights. These rights include:

  • City of Dallas: The city 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. For more information, see Dallas City Hall's websitehttps://dallascityhall.com/departments/fairhousing/Pages/COVID-19-EVICTION-FACTS.aspx
  • San Antonio:  Landlords must give tenants facing eviction a Notice of Renters Rights or risk a $500 fine.
  • San Marcos: The city 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.

 

National Halts on Evictions:

The largest federal halt on evictions, in the CARES Act, expired on July 25. However, the CARES Act still requires affected federal properties to give tenants a 30-Day Notice to Vacate. If the landlord gives you a 30-day Notice to Vacate, that means they can file for eviction after 30 days -- or August 25 at the earliest.

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 you are entitled to a 30-Day Notice to Vacate if your landlord:

Congress is currently debating whether to extend or add to the federal eviction ban.

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.

Eviction Ban for Landlords in Forbearance: The federal government has prohibited evictions from any multi-family 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. Landlords must swear that this does not apply to them them whem they file for eviction.

What types of evictions can still take place?

Texas now allows evictions unless banned by local rules.

Even if there is a halt on evictions in your area, 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

Also, a victim of domestic violence can still enforce a protective order that removes their abuser from a shared home.

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?

The law 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). You can use this time to appeal.

Appealing your eviction: You normally have 5 calendar days after your hearing to appeal an eviction to County Court. If the court is closed or closes before 5:00 PM on the fifth day, you have an extra day to file your appeal. 

Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid has forms to help you appeal as well as general information on eviction.

When will courts start to hear eviction cases again?

Texas courts can now hear eviction cases unless there are local rules that say otherwise. Even if you think your landlord is barred from filing an eviction against you, be prepared to show up and argue your case in Justice Court.

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 local rules. 

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 fees for late rent prior to July 25 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 previously stopped certain landlords from filing evictions for nonpayment of rent. This protection ended on July 25.

However, the CARES Act requires certain landlords to give tenants a 30-Day Notice to Vacate. Covered landlords can start giving 30-Day Notices to Vacate on July 25. That means August 25 is the earliest that a covered landlord can file for eviction.

The CARES Act also says that covered landlords caannot charge you late fees for missing rent before July 25.

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.

 

Harris County Residents

Houston Volunteer Lawyers has obtained a list of Harris County properties that participate in Section 8 Housing. If you live at one of these properties, the CARES Act may protect you from eviction and late fees -- even if you yourself are not a Section 8 tenant. 

Note: The list includes only Harris County Section 8 housing and is not complete. You may still qualify for CARES Act protection even if your home is not on the list. Be sure to check the national database tool (and map) as well. If you do get sued for eviction, you should also still make sure your landlord proves that the CARES Act does not apply.

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

When filing for eviction, all landlords must attach or include a statement that say the following: 

  • Whether your home is a "covered dwelling" under CARES Act Section 2404,
  • Whether the landlord is a "multi-family borrower" in forbearance under CARES Act Section 2403, and
  • Whether or not the landlord gave you a 30-Day Notice to Vacate.

Make sure you to look for these statements in the Petition for Eviction. This is a new rule, so landlords may not comply in all cases. If your landlord filed for eviction before the new rule went into effect, they may even have to amend their petition.

If the statements are not there, note the absence in your Answer and tell the judge during your hearing. If the statements are there, you can ask the judge to make the landlord prove that they are true.

Eviction Hearings and the CARES Act

If you live on a covered property, the CARES Act requires your landlord to give you a 30-Day Notice to Vacate before they can file for eviction. Some landlords may fail to give you a 30-Day Notice to Vacate even if they are supposed to. If this happens to you, tell the court that you did not get proper notice and show the court any documents that prove your landlord is covered by the CARES Act. If you live in public housing or federally subsidized housing, you can use 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.

Remember: Show up to the hearing. Many courts now hold hearings online due to COVID-19. Other courts are only allowing online hearings upon request, and some may only allow remote hearings if you cannot appear in person. Ask the court clerk or court coordinator whether the hearing will be in person, online, or by telephone. See the Virtual Court article for more information about online hearings.

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.

Appeal

If you lose your case, you may appeal within 5 days of the hearing. Go to Texas RioGrande Legal Aid to get forms to help you appeal your case, as well as more information on the eviction process.

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

Yes, so long as you 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?

Maybe. The CARES Act currently only apply to residential property. However, look at any city or county protections (see above) to see if they apply 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:

Teachers and Parents Housing Rights

Many people are concerned about the possibility of schools opening for in person classes. Know that it is illegal to discriminate against teachers, parents, or children who may be at risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to schools opening. Read this article from Disability Rights Texas to learn more. 

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. 

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, go to the Dallas Evictions 2020 website or 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.

South Texas: Housing and Eviction Hotline. Call the hotline at 210-570-6135 and leave a message with your full name, phone number and a brief description of the legal problem. Callers will receive a return call and go through a short screening process. (From St. Mary's Law School, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Texas Pro Bono, and University of Texas Law School)

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.

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. Some information may be out of date.

Video: Attorneys Explain CARES Act Protections

Attorneys from Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas discuss tenant protections in the CARES Act. Some information may be out of date.

Eviction Guide and Eviction Appeal Forms

If you lose your case, you may appeal within 5 days of the hearing. Go to Texas RioGrande Legal Aid to get forms to help you appeal your case, as well as more information on the eviction process. The second half of the video explains how to fill out the forms.

See also the eviction guide and information packet from the Texas Justice Court Training Center. This packet 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.

Forms

Eviction Answer Toolkit - File if you get a Notice to Vacate

See our Eviction Answer Toolkit if you get a Notice to Vacate or notice of an eviction hearing court date. The toolkit includes forms you can fill out and file to tell the Justice Court your side of the case.

Appeal Form

If you lose your eviction case, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid has forms you can use to appeal. You must file the appeal within 5 days after your eviction hearing. Go here for a link to the forms and video that explains the forms and the eviction process. (Go here for Spanish.)