Director of Acquisitions & Staff Reporter (2021 – 2022)
The Issuance of the Moratorium
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to lost wages, income, renter’s inability to make their monthly payments, and tenant’s inability to collect timely payments.1 With the economy still near record lows in the later stages of summer, the United States Government formulated a mechanism to assist its people to remain in their homes.2 On September 4, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed into order the Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 (hereinafter “Nationwide Eviction Moratorium”).3
What is the Eviction Moratorium?
The Nationwide Eviction Moratorium is a federal government order that protects residential tenants from evictions.4 Covered persons include any tenant, lessee, or resident of a residential property.5 In order to qualify, the covered person must provide to their landlord, the owner of the residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction, a declaration, under penalty of perjury, that they: (1) have used best efforts to obtain available government assistance; (2) expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income, were not required to report any income to the IRS, or received a stimulus check pursuant to the CARES Act; (3) are unable to pay the full rent due to substantial loss of household income or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses; (4) are using best efforts to make timely partial payments; and (5) would likely be rendered homeless if evicted.6
What does this mean for Texas?
Texas officials have enacted some means to try to slow evictions.7 Landlords and tenants can delay an eviction for up to two months by agreeing to participate in the state’s eviction diversion program, which offers fifteen months’ worth of rental and utility assistance.8 So far, more than 12,000 households have been assisted through the program, according to data from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.9 But to qualify, tenants must earn only 80% of their area’s median income or less and already have an active eviction case against them.10 The Texas Supreme Court issued a new emergency order, extending the Texas Eviction Diversion Program launched during the COVID-19 pandemic.11 The order was set to expire on July 27, and the new order stretched until October 1, 2021.12
In Texas, October 1 deadline for eviction diversion leads to the question: What does the end of the eviction moratoriums mean for the thousands that still owe past due rent? Does that mean another recession and financial crisis will repeat? To learn more about the legal issues, check out the Texas Law Library’s COVID-19 page: https://guides.sll.texas.gov/covid-19/eviction.
Tenants in the DFW-area can contact Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas on the evictions hotline at 1-888-529-5277 or by visiting the website at www.lanwt.org to learn more about the assistance that is currently available.
1 Leslie S. Johnson, III. Foreclosure and Evictions are Temporarily Limited, 2021 Txcle-Ared 10-III, 2021 WL 1579802.
2 CENTER ON BUDGET AND POL'Y PRIORITIES, supra note 5 (showing average unemployment rates from October through December were still higher than usual); 42 C.F.R. § 70.2 (finding the United States government needed to keep people in their homes in order to help slow the outbreak of COVID-19).
3 42 C.F.R. § 70.2 (effective September 4, 2020).
7 Fechter, J., 2021. The nationwide ban on evictions is over. Here’s what Texas renters need to know.. [online] The Texas Tribune. Available at: <https://www.texastribune.org/2021/09/02/Texas-rent-relief-evictions-moratorium/> [Accessed 16 September 2021].
11 KUVE.com. 2021. Texas Eviction Diversion Program extended to Oct. 1 after Texas Supreme Court ruling. [online] Available at: <https://www.kvue.com/article/news/local/eviction-diversion-pandemic-supreme-court/269-c9be4d7b-b2d0-47bd-bdd1-48405c00c97a> [Accessed 16 September 2021].