Many Texans are struggling to pay the rent during the pandemic and things could get worse. The Houston area has the second highest number of evictions of anywhere in the country and come the new year thousands of evictions are expected in North Texas alone. A report written in late September warned that over 20 million Americans could face eviction filings by the end of January. If you are worried about being evicted, here’s what you need to know.
There is a moratorium on evictions – but it’s about to end soon
The CDC has issued a moratorium that prevents tenants from being evicted provided that they meet certain conditions. The conditions are:
- You have used best efforts to obtain government assistance for rent or housing
- Have an income of no more than $99,000 (or $198,000 for joint filers)
- Are unable to pay full rent due to loss of income, a lay-off or extraordinary medical expenses.
- Eviction would likely render you homeless, or force you into a new residence where people live in close quarters.
Those seeking protection must also sign this form.
Unfortunately, the CDC’s moratorium only lasts until December 31, hence the fears about a wave of evictions in January.
There are still ways to get help
While the CDC’s moratorium is coming to a close soon, the state of Texas is implementing a new program called the Texas Eviction Diversion Program (TEDP), which was created by the Texas Supreme Court, Texas Office of Court Administration, and the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. The TEDP can provide assistance for up to five months of rent that’s past due, and up to six months in subsequent rent assistance. The TEDP also sets up a special court process that allows courts to divert eviction lawsuits to the TEDP. Tenants and landlords must meet certain conditions to qualify, for example household income must be below 200% of poverty (this equals $25,520 for a household of one).
The TEDP is currently available in 19 counties through a pilot program. Harris County, the largest county in the state, is included. The TEDP expects to have funds available for communities with existing COVID-related rental assistance programs by the end of year. Communities that currently do not have COVID-related rental assistance will have to wait until early 2021.
There is also an online information portal called Stop TX Eviction where you can find information on everything from legal rights to rental assistance. The site,which was created by Lone Star Legal Aid, Legal Aid of Northwest Texas and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, is available in both English and Spanish.
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