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Renter’s rights: Can you be evicted during the coronavirus pandemic?

HOUSTON – Like most of us, Emily Whitten of Houston is spending almost all her time indoors because of the coronavirus.

She is spending most of her time inside her 2-bedroom apartment in Midtown.

For the first time, Whitten is now in danger of losing her precious apartment. She recently lost her job as an office manager for an event company, along with about half the staff. Now she is terrified she will be evicted if she can't pay next month's rent.

"I'm terrified of losing this place because I've tried contacting the management company and the residential owners and I haven't gotten a response from either one," she said. "I'm terrified I'm going to lose the only thing I have left."

Luckily for thousands of renters, the Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order last week temporarily putting a halt on all evictions until April 19.

However, KPRC 2 Investigates has found that despite that order, hundreds of eviction cases have since been filed in Harris County.

One day after the Supreme Court order, 74 new eviction cases were filed on March 20.

On Monday, landlords filed 124 cases.

On Tuesday, they filed 25 new cases.

A total of 223 eviction cases filed since the order went into effect.

Zoe Middleton, with a consumer advocacy group Texas Houser's, explains why this is happening.

"What we see in Harris County is that folks are still able to file evictions," she said. "This suspension has not impacted their ability to file evictions. It's only impacted whether or not cases are heard… and how quickly those cases move forward."

If you have lost your job due to the coronavirus and are worried about being evicted, real estate attorney Himesh Gandhi provided some insight.

"Immediately get in touch with your landlord," Gandhi said. "Follow that up in writing, and if you do come up with an arrangement, whether that be to forego the lease payment, to put it off for a while, or to reduce the amount of the rent amount, you need to make sure it's followed up with a written agreement."

Texas Houser’s provided some other protections for Houston renters during this crisis. Check out the resource here.