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Renters at risk as ban on evictions expires April 30

HoustonTexas’ order prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants who can’t pay their rent expires on April 30.

Attorneys with Lone Star Legal Aid and other consumer advocacy groups are asking the Texas Supreme Court to extend the order to protect renters who have lost their jobs or can’t work because of the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, what that means for a lot of people who live hand-to-mouth is that they don’t have money to pay their rent,” explained Lone Star Legal Aid’s Dana Karni. “If they lose their housing, we are also looking at having a tremendous homelessness problem, and a homelessness problem in a county as populated as Harris County would also mean a health crisis.”

Court records show since the order banning evictions took effect on March 19, landlords have filed 845 evictions in Harris County. They can’t be processed right now, but as soon as the order expires, that would be 845 people and families with no place to live.

The bulk of these evictions have been filed in Harris County Precinct 4, which covers most of north Harris County from Spring on the northwest side to Humble on the northeast, and Precinct 5, which covers almost all of west Harris County.

Consumer advocates are also worried that the Texas Workforce Commission has not released how many people have been approved for unemployment benefits, only how many people have applied. Until people get assistance or can go back to work, they have no way to pay their rent.

What renters should do

  • Pay your rent if you can.
  • If you can only make a partial payment, pay what you can.
  • Talk with your landlord about any changes you have had in pay that impact your ability to pay your rent.
  • Call an attorney if your landlord tries to lock you out of your apartment or home for lack of payment.

Landlord rights under the ban on evictions

  • They can still assess late fees for unpaid rent.
  • They can not evict you for nonpayment of rent while the order is in place, but they can file the eviction paperwork so that the eviction can be processed as soon as the order expires.
  • If a landlord says that there is a threat of physical harm or criminal activity, a court may proceed with an eviction on those grounds.

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