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Evictions in the Age of COVID-19

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of our lives, with one being residential rental property evictions. Maneuvering through the different bans and protections, as well as pleading requirements, has become increasingly difficult as orders expire and new orders come into effect.

Since March 2020, federal, state and local governments have taken steps to stop evictions. As of today, Texas allows evictions unless there is a local or federal ban. There is no statewide eviction ban in place.

One of the broadest bans applicable to residential rental properties is the federal order from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC order stops evictions for nonpayment of rent if a tenant can meet certain criteria and gives a signed declaration to the landlord. The order only applies to tenants who meet the following criteria:

1. The tenant expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income in 2020 ($198,000 if filing a joint return), or was not required to report income to the IRS in 2019, or received a stimulus check under the CARES Act;

2. The tenant has “used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing”;

3. The tenant is unable to pay rent in full or make full housing payments due to a substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable work hours or wages, a layoff, or “extraordinary” out-of-pocket medical expenses;

4. The tenant is using “best efforts” to make timely partial payments as close to the full rental/housing payment as possible; and

5. If evicted, the tenant would likely become homeless, need to live in a shelter, or need to move in with another person because they have no other housing options.

If the above requirements are met, the tenant must also submit the declaration to the landlord. If an eviction is already filed, the tenant must file a copy of the declarations of each adult in the household with the court where the eviction is filed. This order was extended until January 31, 2021.

It is important to note that the CDC order does not apply monetary relief for tenants or landlords. Tenants still owe all of the unpaid rent, plus any late fees or charges and interest. The order only pauses the eviction process. Tenants protected by the moratorium cannot be evicted for failing to pay rent, but they can still be evicted for other lease violations or for expiration of the lease.

Various local governments in Texas have their own temporary eviction bans including the city of Austin as well as Travis County. The cities of Dallas, San Antonio and San Marcos no longer ban evictions, but they do give tenants special rights.

If landlords are able to proceed with eviction proceedings, they must abide by the Texas Supreme Court’s Emergency Orders #30 and #31, which add specific pleading language that must in the Petition and Citation.

If you need help with a residential eviction, whether on the tenant or landlord side, feel free to give Hammond Law Firm, PLLC a call at 903-716-6668.

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