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Texas legal aid providers ready to help renters, provide FAQs

Texas legal aid organizations are at the forefront helping low-income individuals and families navigate issues including eviction, foreclosure, bankruptcy, and other personal and financial crises created or worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organizations ready and able to help Texans with these concerns are listed below, followed by the area of the state they serve. Click the link on the organization name to go to the organization’s website and learn how to contact it.

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)

Frequently Asked Questions

The organizations also have created the following 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.

Original author: Amy Starnes
TYLA Director Spotlight: Nicholas Mosser
Coronavirus Legal News Briefing — May 8, 2020
 

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