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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 April 20, 2020 (May 1 for newer cases). Click here for a copy of the emergency order. See below for how this might affect you.

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 existing eviction cases until April 20, and will not hear newly filed cases until at least May 1. This will help some people because landlords must 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.

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 governors temporary eviction rules from BASTA and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. (Spanish)

Can I get help with rent?

Maybe. See the following article from the Texas Apartment Association for a list of organizations that may be able to help with rent, as well additional helpful information for tenants: 

Renter Resources from the Texas Apartment Association

What types of evictions are on hold?

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

Statewide Halt on Evictions:

All evictions under Chapter 24 of the Texas Property Code are on hold. This includes:

  • Not paying rent
  • Breaking lease agreement
  • Refusing to leave after lease expires
  • New owner making tenant move after forclosing on the property
  • Any other situation where the court grants an owner or landlord's request to remove you from the property

 

Local Halts on Evictions:

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

  • Austin: Passed a rule that requires 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. Tenants have a right to get this 60 days notice until May 8, 2020.
  • City of Dallas: Halted evictions for unpaid rent until May 23, 2020.
  • Dallas County: Halted evictions for unpaid rent until May 17, 2020.
  • Hidalgo County: Halted evictions for unpaid rent until April 21, 2020, nor can landlords raise rent during this time.
  • 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 8, 2020,  but could be extended. So the halt on evictions is currently set to end on June 7, but could last longer.
  • Tarrant County: Halted evictions for unpaid rent and lease violations until further notice.

 

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 forebearance 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 forebearance 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 federal voucher program, such as Section 8 or Housing Choice
  • Have been partially purchased by or received loans from Fannie Mae or Freedie Mac
  • Benefit from any other HUD or other federal program.

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

 

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 to April 19. That means time between March 19 and April 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 April 20.

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 April 28, 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 April 27, so the earliest you can be force to leave your home is April 28. 

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 14, the five days stopped counting on March 19 and do not start counting again until April 20.

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 April 19 does not count toward those five days.

 

 

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 April 20, 2020. This might change if the court extends the order, but do not count on that. Be prepared to show up for any eviction hearings scheduled after April 19, 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?

Yes, a landlord can still give you an eviction notice and then file an eviction case. However, the court will not hear the case until the emergency order expires.

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. Does the statewide emergency order apply to me?

No. The statewide emergency order only applies 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.

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 this article from Disability Rights Texas for more details. 

I live in a hotel. 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.

If you think you might leglly 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

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