TYLER, Texas — The Texas economy has gradually started reopening this month, but many remain without jobs and the statewide halting of evictions, as well as trials, hearings and other procedures is coming to an end May 18.
“I understand that the process is taking quite some time—in trying to get unemployment and compensation,” said Alex Castetter, managing attorney of Tyler’s Lone Star Legal Aid office. “And there are some people in desperate need of those [stimulus] checks that still haven’t received them.”
Evictions can be filed, but the process won’t begin until the moratorium expires, but that doesn’t mean people will be kicked out immediately.
“The tenant has to be served with notice of hearing, so it usually takes a couple of weeks from filing before you get to a hearing,” explained Castetter. “From that time, it’s five more days before a landlord can get a writ of repossession and during that period of time the tenant is able to file an appeal to county court if they choose to do so.”
It can take about a month for the whole process and Castetter says he has heard of renters winning appeals.
It’s illegal for a landlord to lock someone out of their place or to shut off utilities like water or electricity.
“People who are subject to that, they need to contact the justice of the peace office covering their area,” he said. “Ask for a writ asking for the judge to let them back in or let their utilities get turned back on.”
Tenants with evictions on their record have a harder time finding a different place to rent, but landlords also have to pay for the eviction legal process, as well as the cost of having an apartment without tenants.
Castetter says that many of the calls his office has been receiving during this time aren’t from people being served notices to vacate, but those who are fearful they will be soon. He recommends people talk with their landlord about their financial situation, pay what they can for the time being and work out a payment plan.
“One other thing that tenants can do if they believe that the property, they’re renting has a federally backed mortgage through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the CARES Act might allow them to have additional time before eviction could begin against them,” said Castetter.
According to the Texas Tribune, the federal government has halted evictions for federally-backed mortgages until August 23.
To see if your property is backed by the federal eviction moratorium, click here for a nationwide list from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).
If your rental home is not in the NLIHC database or if it is listed as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you can check or confirm the property's status with the new Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac multifamily lookup tools. The Fannie Mae tool can be found here and the Freddie Mac tool can be found here.
If you or someone you know are in need of rent assistance, click here.