Texas Legal Aid Providers Ready to Assist Low-Income Renters and Borrowers During Coronavirus Pandemic

[Joint Press Release with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, Lone Star Legal Aid, and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid]

AUSTIN, TX, April, 28 2020 — Last week the Texas Supreme Court extended the statewide eviction moratorium to promote safety and prevent homelessness. This order extends the moratorium on eviction hearings until May 18 and prohibits orders authorizing actual eviction until May 25, with exceptions for imminent threats of physical harm and criminal activity. Several Texas counties have extended these deadlines even later than the statewide order.

 

For certain properties who have federally backed mortgage loans, the new federal CARES Act prohibits evictions for nonpayment into late July, prohibits residential foreclosures through midMay, and requires lenders to provide borrowers with forbearance agreements. You can search the National Low Income Housing Coalition to see if a rental property is included in the CARES Act protection. Even if a property is not listed, however, a tenant may still be protected because of potential inaccuracies in the list.

 

Texas legal aid organizations are at the forefront helping low-income people with their housing needs across the state navigate this unprecedented crisis.

 

These organizations are:

● Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (serving North and West Texas)

● Lone Star Legal Aid (serving Northeast, East, and Southeast Texas)

● Texas Legal Services Center (statewide)

● Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (serving South and West Texas)


Legal Aid attorneys from each of these organizations are available to assist and speak to the media on issues including foreclosure, bankruptcy, landlord-tenant, federal housing programs, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit housing, and other housing matters that may be unique to their service area.

 

Attorneys and staff are available to speak to the media in English and Spanish to provide accurate and timely information on the services available to renters facing a variety of personal and financial crises created – or worsened – by the pandemic.

Below are Frequently Asked Questions regarding rental housing matters in Texas.

Please go to TexasLawHelp.org for information specific to where you live, as some cities and counties have delayed certain proceedings beyond the dates listed below.

 

I heard that landlords are not evicting people in Texas right now. Is this true?

Yes and No. A landlord may file in court to evict you right now but courts cannot hold a hearing to decide the matter until after May 18, 2020. However, if a landlord says that there is a threat of physical harm or criminal activity, a court may proceed with an eviction. A case that involves nonpayment of rent or late fees or other charges may not proceed until later this summer if the property has a mortgage that is backed by the federal government or is federally subsidized or has received tax credits.

 

If I am evicted by the justice court on May 19, 2020, how soon would the landlord be able to force me to leave?

The earliest a constable or sheriff could come and force you to leave is after May 25, 2020, unless you appeal the case to county court which must be done within five days of the date the judgment is signed (counting weekends and holidays).

 

Why May 25, 2020?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court of Texas has halted most eviction hearings in Texas until after May 18, 2020. Officers cannot post 24-hour removal notices until after May 25, 2020. The 24-hour removal notice will state the date and time the constable will return to remove you if you have not moved.

 

Many local governments have suspended evictions as well. This means your landlord can’t start the eviction process or continue a process started before the order until at least after May 18, 2020.

 

My landlord told me I had to be out by May 10, 2020. Can they make me leave on May 10th?

No. Before your landlord can force you to leave, they must follow the legal process required in Texas. The landlord must first file an eviction lawsuit, and the justice court must hold a trial and sign a judgment of eviction. If no appeal is filed in five days, the constable must give you at least a 24-hour notice to leave a residence. The statewide emergency order says that there will be no 24-hour notices until after May 25, 2020.

 

If my landlord files an eviction case against me, does that mean I will be evicted?

Not necessarily. Your landlord must still prove in court that you violated your lease and that they followed the eviction process correctly, including by giving you a notice to vacate. You will have an opportunity to raise any defenses to eviction, for example that your landlord is covered by the CARES Act and should not have filed the eviction case against you, or that you do not owe what your landlord says you do. Also, sometimes at court the parties work it out so that no judgement is issued.

 

Do I need to pay rent?

YES. The state’s emergency order only halts eviction trials and doesn’t mean that you do not owe rent. If you do not pay it, your landlord can still file an eviction that will be heard when the courts get to it, after the order has expired. If you are unable to pay the rent, you should talk to your landlord and attempt to reach a payment agreement or forbearance plan.

 

What if I can’t pay my rent because I haven’t been working?

Texas has loosened its requirements for filing unemployment. Texans who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis can apply for unemployment benefits either online at Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) or by phone at 800-939-6631.

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Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (lanwt.org) — Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas is a nonprofit organization that strives to meet the legal needs of more than 1.5 million eligible clients in its 114-county service area. The fifth-largest legal aid program in the United States, LANWT provides a wide variety of broad-based legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients including family law, landlord/tenant cases, public benefits, wills, domestic and family violence, foreclosure prevention, consumer issues, and community revitalization matters.

 

Lone Star Legal Aid (lonestarlegal.org) — Lone Star Legal Aid is the fourth largest service provider of free legal aid in the United States. LSLA serves 72 counties in Texas and four in Arkansas, from Texarkana to the Louisiana-Texas Gulf Coast state-line, down to Matagorda Bay, an area with over 2 million Texans eligible for free legal services. LSLA has 14 offices throughout east, southeast, and northeast Texas; covering consumer, housing, public benefits, environmental justice, disaster recovery, tax relief, family law, domestic violence, sexual assault, crime victim rights, veterans’ benefits, and more.

 

Texas Legal Services Center is a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide high-quality legal representation, advice, advocacy, and education at no cost to underserved people across the state. With more than a dozen practice areas, our work touches almost every aspect of civil law that impacts low-income Texans.

 

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (trla.org) — Texas RioGrande Legal Aid provides free legal services to approximately 23,000 low-income Texans in 68 southwestern counties including the entire Texas-Mexico border. TRLA attorneys specialize in more than 45 practice areas, including disaster assistance, family, employment, foreclosure, bankruptcy, subsidized housing, education, immigration, farmworker, civil rights, and environmental law.

 

This information is accurate as of 5/6/20. Due to changing circumstances, this information may be superseded by current events, new laws and regulations, disaster declarations and extensions, court orders, and administrative agency decisions. While we will make every effort to update this information when possible, the user should always check for updates and be guided accordingly.

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Meghan Lee, Communications

communications@tlsc.org

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