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Evictions During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Eviction & Other Landlord Issues

There may be programs that can help you pay rent and avoid eviction.

If you have gotten a Notice to Vacate or an eviction citation, 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. 

Can I get help with rent?

You may be able to apply for local rent assistance.  

If your landlord has already sued you for eviction, Texas Supreme Court's emergency orders (formerly the Texas Eviction Diversion Plan) may be able to stop your case and seal the eviction on your record.

Apply for help as soon as you fall behind. It can take weeks or months to get rent assistance. See Court Coronavirus Information: Emergency Orders.

Emergencies. If you are at immediate risk of homelessness and your rent relief application will not come in time to keep you housed, you may try to get a one-time emergency rental assistance payment through a local program. Go to Help for Texans and select Emergency and Homeless Services. Then enter your city or county at the bottom of the page to search for help near you. Funding and availability may vary. 

What types of evictions are on hold?

Eviction Ban for Landlords in Federal Forbearance: The federal government has prohibited evictions from any multi-family apartment complex that takes part in certain federal housing programs and which has also paused mortgage payments. This means that if you live on a property with more than four units and the FHA, FHFA, USDA, or VA gives your landlord a forbearance on their mortgage, your landlord cannot evict you for unpaid rent so long as the forbearance is in place. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau can help determine if your home qualifies for these protections. 

I am protected by an eviction ban. Do I still owe rent?

Yes. Even if you are, or were, protected by an eviction ban, you still owe rent. All eviction bans only paused court proceedings. They did not cancel rent obligations. Be sure to apply for rent assistance if you cannot pay rent.

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 not to accept late rent even if an emergency order prevents them from evicting you right away

Does my landlord have to take any special steps to evict me?

Yes. Your landlord has to follow strict rules and file a court case before they can evict you. Find out about the eviction process here.

Some local governments also have special notice requirements. In these areas, the landlord may have to give you extra time to find a new home or make up the rent. If they do not follow these steps, they may be fined or even barred from evicting you. See information about special notice requirements here

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 Landlords Locking Out Tenants to learn how to return to your home or retrieve your property if you get locked out. See also Renter’s Rights: Lockouts and Utility Shutoffs from Lone Star Legal Aid.

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

What if I already lost my eviction case?

Writ of Possession

The law usually gives you five days after you lose your eviction hearing before you can be served the final 24 hours' notice to vacate (called a Notice of Writ of Possession). You have these five days to file an appeal.

How it works: Your landlord must wait five days after the eviction hearing, return to court, and ask for a Writ of Possession. The constable then brings Notice of the Writ of Possession to your home. After giving you notice, they can come back and remove you after 24 hours. 

Possession Bond (Immediate Possession)

Losing your eviction hearing by default may expose you to immediate removal. If your citation from the court says your landlord filed a possession bond, your landlord can get a Writ of Possession immediately after getting a default eviction judgment. They will not have to wait five days. A default judgment can only occur if you do not file an Answer and do not appear at the hearing. This is one reason why it is crucial to show up to court.

Appealing Your Eviction

You usually have five calendar days after your hearing to appeal an eviction to County Court. If the court is closed or closes before 5 p.m. on the fifth day, you have an extra day to file your appeal. 

Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid has forms to help you appeal and general information about eviction. 

Are courts hearing eviction cases right now?

Yes, Texas courts are now hearing eviction cases. Be prepared to show up and argue your case in Justice Court.

Note that while in-person hearings are now allowed, many courts are still holding hearings online. Contact the court clerk for login details. Failure to log in may result in you losing your case. 

Can I be charged late fees?

Yes, with a few exceptions. Some rent relief programs, including the Texas Rent Relief Program, will make your landlord forgo all unreasonable late fees. Late fees over 12% of your monthly rent (10% for properties with more than four units) are unreasonable. 

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

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

  • Talk to Your Landlord: You may be able to come to an agreement with your landlord. Many landlords would prefer partial payment rather than finding a new tenant.
  • Apply for Rent Assistance: Be sure to apply for rent assistance if available in your area.
  • Answer Form: File an Answer. 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, you should file an Answer as soon as possible.
  • Reasonable Accommodation: Consider asking for a reasonable accommodation to let you stay in your home. Landlords have to take reasonable steps to help people who have disabilities. Being at risk for COVID-19 may be considered a disability. Read Eviction and Reasonable Accommodations in Texas to learn more about asking for a reasonable accommodation that may help you stay in your home. Disability Rights Texas also has a tool to help you write a reasonable accommodation request letter.
  • Appeal: If you lose your eviction case, decide whether to appeal. You have the right to appeal within five days of the hearing. Go to Texas RioGrande Legal Aid to get forms to help you appeal your case and more information on the eviction process. 

My lender foreclosed on my home and I am getting evicted.

If your home is foreclosed upon, you still have the right to a formal eviction proceeding.

Learn more about foreclosures

How can I negotiate rent with my landlord?

Attorneys from Legal Aid of Northwest Texas give tips on how to negotiate rent and fees with your landlord in this interview.

My lease is ending and my landlord does not want to renew. Can they evict me if I stay?

If you stay past the end of your lease against your landlord's wishes, your landlord can evict you in most cases. A landlord can refuse to renew a lease for most any reason.

One exception is if your landlord refuses to renew as retaliation.

Another exception is if you get rent relief. A landlord must extend your lease for at least the rent relief period. If they do not, they must return the funds.

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

Generally, no. 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

Some people may be concerned about schools opening for in person classes. Know that it is illegal for landlords to discriminate against teachers, parents, or children who may be at risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to schools opening.

I live in a hotel or motel. Do I have tenant rights?

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.

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 Hotels/Motels vs. Residential Tenancies from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid for more information on when a hotel guest might have tenant rights.

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 Re-Entry. A Writ of Re-Entry gives you the right to return to live in the room. You can use the following forms:

  • Application for Writ of Re-Entry - Form that lets you ask the court for a Writ of Re-Entry
  • Writ of Re-Entry - Writ and Return - Form that the court signs that lets you return to your home.
  • Order After Hearing - Form to for the judge to sign if you go to a hearing for the re-entry and you win. You can also use this form to ask for court costs if the hotel does not request a hearing within eight days of getting served with the Writ of Re-Entry.
  • Also: Fee Waiver - If you are low income, you may qualify for a fee waiver. You can ask the court for a fee waiver using this form.

I left my home before I got my Texas Rent Relief payment. Can I apply it to rent that I owe?

Yes, but only if you moved before losing an eviction case in court. A landlord cannot get paid through Texas Rent Relief if they have evicted you. The landlord also has to drop all claims against you. If they reported you to any credit bureaus, they have to tell the bureaus of the payments.

If you received assistance through a program other than Texas Rent Relief, ask the provider how you are allowed to use the funds. You may have to pay funds back if you use them in a way that violates program rules.

I have lost my eviction case. Can I appeal?

Yes. You have five days after your hearing to appeal. See Appealing an Eviction for forms and information.

Additional Information

Dallas/Fort Worth Area: For those facing eviction in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, go to:

Rural Counties: Those living in low-population counties should contact the TLSC Eviction Hotline at 855.270.7655. See if your county qualifies.

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).

Spanish Resources

The following resources are available in Spanish:

Forms for Answers, Missed Hearings, and Abatements

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.

Missed Hearing (Default Judgment)

Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment - Use this form if you missed your hearing for a good reason. It asks the court to take back a default judgment and rehear your case. Note that filing a Motion to Set Aside Default does not extend the five-day deadline for appeal.

Abatements

Motion and Order to Abate - If you qualify under the Fifty-Sixth Emergency Order, you may be able to pause your case for 60 days. If the landlord does not reinstate it, the court will dismiss your case and it will stay off your tenant record.

CDC Eviction Moratorium Is No Longer in Effect

The United States Supreme Court effectively ended the CDC Moratorium (unless Congress were to pass a bill formalizing it and the President were to sign the bill).

On August 26, 2021, the Supreme Court said in the case of Alabama Association of Realtors v. Department of Health and Human Services that the CDC Eviction Moratorium Order could not stay in effect while challenges and appeals worked their way through the court system. This effectively ended the CDC Moratorium, which was set to expire on October 3, 2021. 

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