In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government and local jurisdictions in Texas have adopted the following protections for tenants to help them stay in their homes. The information on this page is focused on residential tenancies and not commercial tenancies.
If you know of any updates that should be made to this page, please email CommunityAssistanceProject@law.utexas.edu.
CDC Order, September 1, 2020
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order on September 1st (effective September 4th) protecting certain renters from eviction for nonpayment of rent through the end of 2020. The moratorium applies only to renters who meet all of the following criteria:
- The renter expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income in 2020 ($198,000 if filing a joint return), or was not required to report income to the IRS in 2019, or received a stimulus check under the CARES Act;
- The renter has “used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing”;
- The renter is unable to pay rent in full or make full housing payments due to a substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable work hours or wages, a layoff, or “extraordinary” out-of-pocket medical expenses (=likely to exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income for the year);
- The renter is using “best efforts” to make timely partial payments as close to the full rental/housing payment as possible; and
- If evicted, the renter would likely become homeless, need to live in a shelter, or need to move in with another person because they have no other housing options.
To qualify under the moratorium, the renter must also submit a declaration to the landlord under penalty of perjury that they meet these standards. A template for the declaration can be found here. Renters can be subject to criminal penalties for false or misleading statements. Under the moratorium, renters are still liable for their rent and subject to late fees, penalties and interest for nonpayment of rent.
The moratorium blocks any actions by a landlord, residential property owner, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction from removing or causing the removal of a tenant who qualifies under the moratorium. The moratorium thus appears to block all phases of the eviction process including notices to vacate.
Federal Stimulus Legislation: CARES Act, March 27, 2020
The 120-day moratorium on evictions in the federal CARES Act expired on Friday, July 24th. Landlords covered under the moratorium must still provide tenants with a 30-day notice before proceeding with an eviction action. The following properties are covered by the CARES Act protections: (1) Low Income Housing Tax Credit properties; (2) single-family and multifamily properties backed by federal loans (Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac/USDA/FHA/VA) (Section 4024 of the Act); and (3) most federally-subsidized rental housing properties (e.g., public housing, Section 8 vouchers, project-based Section 8 and others).
- This site covers how to identify whether a property is covered by CARES. Here is a map showing which multifamily rental properties in Texas are covered by the CARES Act moratorium. Note that this map does not include covered single-family properties.
- The National Low Income Housing Coalition is tracking which properties are covered by the CARES Act moratorium. This list is not comprehensive and does not include single-family rental homes of 1-4 units and does not include all of the multifamily properties backed with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgages.
Additional federal protections
- Renters living in the following properties are protected from eviction until December 31, 2020:
- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac real estate-owned properties (such as those acquired by Fannie/Freddie through foreclosure).
- Properties with a VA guaranteed loan or USDA Single Family Housing Direct or Guaranteed Loan.
- Under the CARES Act and additional federal guidance, while in forbearance, multifamily landlords (5 or more units) with federally-backed mortgages must:
- Suspend evictions for renters based on nonpayment of rent, fees, or other charges.
- Provide tenants with flexibility to repay back rent over time and not in a lump sum (for HUD/FHA and Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac properties).
- Not charge tenants late fees or penalties for nonpayment of rent.
- Give tenants at least a 30-day notice to vacate before proceeding with an eviction action.
Aug 6, 2020: The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that multifamily property owners (5 or more units) with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac who enter into a new or modified forbearance agreement must inform tenants in writing about tenant protections during the forbearance and repayment periods.
March 23, 2020. The FHFA announced that multifamily property owners with a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac backed mortgage who enter into a forbearance agreement with their lender must agree to suspend evictions for the duration of the forbearance agreement.
STATE OF TEXAS
Supreme Court of Texas
Sept 25, 2020: The Texas Supreme issued a 27th emergency order allowing for eviction proceedings to be abated by agreement of the landlord and tenant for 60 days, under a new Texas Eviction Diversion Program. The diversion program seeks to reduce the number of evictions by creating a forum for landlords and tenants to agree upon the resolution of non-payment of rent issues, supported with rental assistance for tenants provided from federal CARES Act funding distributed through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. Under the program:
- Landlords must review information about the program on the Office of Court Administration website before filing an eviction case. In their eviction citations issued to tenants, landlords must (1) affirm they reviewed the program information and (2) include a specific notice to tenants and a copy of the State of Texas Eviction Diversion Program brochure.
- On the date listed in the citation for the eviction case trial, the judge must discuss the program with the landlord and tenant and ask whether they are interested in the program.
- At any time during the 60-day period, a landlord in an abatement agreement can file a motion to reinstate the eviction case, and the eviction trial must then be set within 21 days.
- Court records for participants in an abatement agreement will be kept confidential during the abatement period.
The order is effective October 12th for counties participating in a pilot eviction diversion program, and effective November 9th for all other counties. The order expires December 18th. The Office of Court Administration will identify the pilot counties and post them on their website.
Sept 19, 2020: The Texas Supreme Court released its 26th emergency order (effective October 1) permitting courts to modify or suspect deadlines and procedures through December 1, 2020. The order requires courts to use all reasonable efforts to hold proceedings remotely, and prohibits JP courts from holding in-person jury proceedings prior to December 1st.
Sept 18, 2020: In a 25th emergency order, the Supreme Court updated the list of items that must be included in the landlord’s sworn petition required in residential eviction filings. These items include a statement of whether or not: (1) the premises is a “covered dwelling” subject to Section 4023 of the CARES Act; (2) the plaintiff is a “multifamily borrower” under forbearance subject to Section 4023 of the CARES Act; (3) the landlord has provided the tenant with 30 days’ notice to vacate under Sections 4024(c) and 4023(e) of the CARES Act; and (4) the tenant has provided the landlord with a declaration under the CDC’s September 4th order.
The court’s order also requires landlords to notify tenants in eviction citations of their rights under the CDC order to file a declaration stopping the eviction in the instances applicable under the CDC order (the exact language required to be included is in the order). Landlords must also include a copy of the declaration form. The Supreme Court’s order runs until December 15, unless extended by the Chief Justice.
August 7, 2020: The Texas Attorney General issued a non-binding opinion stating that Texas local governmental jurisdictions do not have authority during a disaster to prohibit, delay, or restrict the issuance of a notice to vacate for an eviction. In response, the Texas Justice Court Training Center provided courts with a useful analysis of local authority to postpone evictions (at link scroll down to “Eviction Cases” and “AG Opinion on Local Eviction Ordinances”).
LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IN TEXAS
Right to cure/grace period to catch up on rent
- Austin. Here’s an informational sheet created by BASTA on Austin’s renter protections.
- September 17th: The Austin City Council extended its 60-day catch up on rent ordinance. The ordinance now runs through December 31, 2020.
- July 29th: The City’s 60-day catch up on rent ordinance now runs until September 30th. Here’s the updated ordinance.
- May 7th: The Austin City Council extended to August 24th its ordinance giving tenants 60 days to catch up on late rent before a landlord can proceed with an eviction (see below).
- March 26th: The Austin City Council adopted an ordinance that gives tenants 60 days to catch up on late rent before a landlord can proceed with an eviction. Specifically, the ordinance requires landlords to provide tenants with a “notice of proposed eviction” at least 60 days before proceeding with a notice to vacate, which is required under state law before a landlord can file an eviction. The notice of proposed eviction must provide tenants with the “right to cure” any late payments in at least 60 days. The ordinance applies to landlords evicting tenants due to late payments occurring between March 26 and May 8, 2020.
- Dallas. April 22nd: The City Council adopted protections to help renters avoid eviction from their homes due to nonpayment of rent. The protections resemble those previously adopted by the Austin City Council and require residential landlords to issue tenants a “Notice of Possible Eviction” before sending a notice to vacate for nonpayment of rent. The notice must include information on rental assistance programs and provide tenants with at least 21 days to negotiate lease payment agreements with their landlords. If a tenant provides proof of financial hardship due to COVID-19, their landlord must provide the tenant with 60 days to catch up on the late rent or enter into a payment plan. Here is more information about the Dallas eviction protections.
- San Marcos. April 7: The San Marcos city council adopted an ordinance giving tenants a 90-day right to cure any delinquency as a result of the pandemic. Landlords must provide tenants with a Notice of Proposed Eviction giving tenants at least 90 days to catch up on any late rent payments before proceeding with a notice to vacate. The ordinance expires upon the expiration of the city’s declaration disaster.
- San Antonio. May 13th: By a 5-6 vote, the San Antonio City Council rejected a measure requiring landlords to give tenants a 30-day grace period to catch up on rent. The measure was put forward in response to a letter by a group of tenant advocates asking for a 60-day grace period.
- Houston: August 2020. Despite a unanimous recommendation from the City’s Housing Stability Task Force, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner refused to put the item on the Council agenda. See coverage here.
Local policies governing eviction notices and hearings:
- City of Austin (see also Travis County below).
- July 24th: The Mayor issued an updated order barring notices to vacate in residential evictions through September 30, 2020, except for instances involving criminal activity or imminent threat of physical harm to the landlord or other tenants. The order also prohibits landlords from removing property or excluding tenants from their rental home and from seizing any of tenant’s nonexempt property that is subject to a lien.
- San Antonio. June 25th: The San Antonio City Council adopted an ordinance requiring landlords to send tenants a notice of tenants rights whenever they send out a notice to vacate. The landlord must provide a copy of the notice created by the City. The notice includes information on housing assistance resources, outlines the eviction process, and provides a link to a self-help information packet with advocacy information. The ordinance applies to all residential landlords in the city limits.
- Travis County.
- Sept. 24, 2020: The Travis County Justice of the Peace issued an order abating eviction trials until after December 31, 2020, if the sole grounds for the eviction are non-payment of rent/housing payments, and the tenant’s portion of the monthly rent/housing payment is $2,475 a month or less.
- July 22, 2020: The Travis County Justices of the Peace issued an order postponing all eviction hearings until after September 30, 2020, as wells as writs of possession, except for instances involving imminent threat of physical harm or criminal activity.