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Evictions During the COVID-19 Pandemic

House & Apartment

There are many new programs that can help you pay rent and avoid eviction. Read this article to learn more.

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

Can I get help with rent?

Apply. You can apply for help with rent through the Texas Rent Relief program, programs you can find on your local city or county website, and the organizations listed here and here.

If your landlord has already sued you for eviction, the Texas Eviction Diversion Program may be able to help with rent, end the case, and seal the eviction on your record.

What types of evictions are on hold?

Austin and Travis County: (Note: Austin has extended its eviction ban in some form until December 31, 2021. More details will be available when the city publishes the new ordinance.) Austin and Travis County currently ban most commercial and residential evictions until after October 15, 2021.  This protection does not apply to residential tenants with a monthly rent of over $2,475 unless the tenant used a CDC Declaration. This protection does protect qualified tenants against eviction due to the lease ending or certain minor lease violations. Landlords also cannot remove or lock out a tenant, remove a tenant's property, or seize a tenant's property under a lien until after August 1.

Note that on September 1, Travis County and Austin started allowing eviction of tenants who owe more than three months' rent, but only after the landlord has exhausted all the following rent assistance programs:

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. 

San Antonio: The San Antonio Housing Authority has paused evictions for the city's public housing and Beacon communities only. Evictions may resume August 31, 2021.

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 you find out if your home qualifies for these protections.

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

Yes. Even if a you are or were protected by an eviction ban, you still owe rent. All of the eviction bans so far have only made it so that that courts will not hear eviction cases until a later date. 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 to not accept late rent even if an emergency order prevents them from evicting you right away.

What types of evictions can still take place?

Texas allows evictions unless banned by local or federal rules. There is no statewide eviction ban.

Even if an eviction ban would apply to you, 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.

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 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. 

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. 

What if I already lost my eviction case?

Writ of Possession

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.

Are courts hearing eviction cases right now?

Texas courts can now hear eviction cases unless there are local or federal 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.

Note: 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. If your landlord chooses to take part in the new Texas Eviction Diversion Program, they must forgive your late fees. Also, the CARES Act stopped late fees on covered properties prior to July 25, 2020. Any local eviction ban that might protect you does not stop you from owing late fees.

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 rather get partial payment rather than find a new tenant. Also, the Texas Eviction Diversion Program can help pay for up to 15 months' rent if your landlord agrees to participate.

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 then 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 this article to learn more about how ask 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 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.

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

If the mortgage on your home was held or insured by any of the below government entities, you cannot be evicted after foreclosure until at least September 30, 2021.

  • Fair Housing Administration – In addition to many traditional mortgages, this includes all Home Equity Conversion Mortgages, a common type of reverse mortgage.
  • Fair Housing Finance Agency – This includes mortgages held or insured by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • United states Department of Agriculture

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 live in Austin or Travis county. Austin and Travis County protect tenants from eviction for nonpayment and minor lease violations even after their lease has expired. However, these protections are set to expire on August 1, 2021.

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

Maybe. Most protections only apply to residential leases. However, Austin and Travis County have halted evictions for commercial tenants.

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 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. 

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.

Forms for Answers, Appeals, and Missed Hearings

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 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 appeal forms, which are found on the page's right side. (Go here for Spanish.)

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.

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