HOUSTON – More than four out of every 10 people in Houston rent their homes. With many of those tenants out of work or not getting paid right now, paying rent next week will be tough. We took your questions to Sugar Land real estate attorney Himesh Ghandi to find out what your rights are during this uncertain time.
Q: I won’t have enough to pay rent on April 1st. Isn’t my landlord required to help me since the coronavirus has caused many people to be laid off?
Ghandi’s answer: Unfortunately for tenants, there are no clauses in most lease contracts covering pandemics or health crises. It is entirely up to the landlords if they are willing to reduce your rent amount or accept late payments with no penalties.
My advice is if you’re in a position where you are not able to make your payment due to your income disappearing or your income being reduced, I would strongly urge everyone to immediately get in touch with your landlord. Follow it up in writing if you do come up with an arrangement, whether that arrangement is to forego the lease payment, to put it off for a while or to reduce the amount, you need to make sure it is followed up with a written agreement that’s acknowledged by the landlord.
Q: Can I be evicted for not paying the full amount of rent?
Ghandi’s answer: The Texas Supreme Court has halted all evictions through April 19th. Evictions can still be processed. The application process could still go on, but for now, evictions will not be heard in Texas courts. You can also still face late fees and penalties for missed payments. There are no protections from those at this time.
There is good news for college students at Texas A&M and the University of Texas where classes on campus have moved online. Payments for residence halls and dining plans will be credited or reimbursed for unused portions.
If your student lived in a private apartment off-campus, contact the landlord or leasing office as soon as possible to see if they will work with you. If you have a payslip or a furlough notice that shows you are unable to pay your rent, have those ready to show to try and work out some kind of a deal with the landlord.