In general, the term “eviction” refers to the legal process in which a landlord may ask a court to order the removal of a tenant from a rental property. Alternatively, the eviction process can also occur when a creditor or mortgage lender files an eviction lawsuit in court after a foreclosure action is complete. This typically happens when a homeowner defaults on their mortgage loan payments and refuses to vacate their former house.

There are a limited number of reasons as to why a creditor or mortgage lender would want to evict a homeowner from their property. The most common one of those reasons being that a borrower failed to pay off their debts. 

On the other hand, there may be all sorts of reasons as to why a landlord would want to evict a tenant from a rental property. The following provides a list of some of those reasons:

  • The tenant has failed to pay rent for the maximum number of times allotted in their lease for missed payments.
  • The tenant has refused to pay rent for reasons that are considered to be legally invalid.
  • The tenant and/or the tenant’s guests have caused significant property damage to the rental home.
  • The landlord has received too many complaints about the tenant from either other tenants on the property or calls from the police regarding noise or illegal conduct. 
  • The tenant breached the terms of their lease contract or short-term rental agreement (e.g., having a pet despite signing a lease that contains a “no-pets” clause).
  • The tenant did not vacate the premises after their lease expired and is essentially now a squatter.  

Although most eviction actions take place between a residential tenant and a landlord who oversees the rental property site, the process can be used to remove commercial tenants as well. For instance, the landlord of a commercial office building can evict a commercial tenant from the property for failing to pay their rent. 

It should be noted, however, that both the tenant and the landlord must adhere to strict legal requirements when involved in the eviction process. Such legal procedures are usually governed by state-specific laws and can often vary by jurisdiction. 

In addition, while the law originally protected landlords when it came to evicting tenants, the more common trend today is for the courts to side with the tenants. Tenants also have a handful of defenses they can use against a landlord; particularly, concerning the eviction notice. 

Tenants who have the option of asserting these defenses in court should use them wisely since they can help the tenant to prove that the landlord does not have a valid legal reason to evict them. 

Finally, the eviction process can have an emotional impact on both parties. For instance, the tenant/homeowner can lose their home or the landlord/mortgage lender may be out thousands of dollars depending on the outcome of the action. Therefore, it would be in both parties’ best interest to each retain their own separate real estate counsel to further assist them with such matters. 

What are Eviction Ban Laws?

An eviction ban law, also known as an eviction moratorium, is a government mandate that prevents landlords from evicting tenants from rental properties. Eviction ban laws may also prohibit lenders from removing certain borrowers from houses that are in foreclosure or whose mortgage payments are in a temporary period of forbearance.

It is important to note that eviction ban laws can vary by jurisdiction. This can mean that a tenant living in New York City might be protected from being evicted under such laws, but someone living a mere three hours away in Albany might not be depending on their local laws.

In addition, the federal government may issue a nationwide moratorium on eviction in times of crisis like the one that was imposed and has been extended throughout the ongoing pandemic. As of August 2021, the Biden administration has increased the deadline for the federal eviction moratorium through October 2021.

Does Texas Have Any Eviction Ban Laws Related to COVID-19 Issues? 

As discussed above, the U.S. government issued a new federal eviction moratorium in August that is set to last through early October of 2021. The purpose of the mandate was to replace the one that had expired a few days earlier and to provide protection against evictions in parts of the U.S. that are experiencing significant spikes of COVID-19. Texas and Florida are currently in the lead for new COVID-19 cases.

The state of Texas offers a number of informative government websites regarding eviction ban laws and COVID-19 issues. Persons who are in danger of being evicted from a residential property should use these sites to find out whether or not they are protected under the federal order. Once an individual determines that they meet the requirements under the federal order, they can then start checking for eviction ban laws in a specific Texas county.

However, unlike other states, Texas chose not to implement statewide eviction ban laws on its residents. Instead, persons who are at risk of being evicted will need to apply for a Texas rental assistance program. For example, the Texas Eviction Diversion Program (“TEDP”) is offering rental assistance to tenants who are eligible to receive it. In general, this includes tenants who have fallen behind on their rent payments due to COVID-19 issues.

Another statewide program that was created to handle evictions associated with COVID-19 issues is the Texas Rent Relief Program. This particular program will help tenants in Texas pay for rent and utility bills, including ones that are in arrears and backdated as far as March 13, 2020. 

In addition, larger Texas counties have started pausing local eviction actions in response to the fact that the state has elected not to adopt a statewide eviction ban law. Some examples of local eviction ban rules in various Texas counties include the following:

  • Austin: The city of Austin extended its right to cure ordinance after the federal government issued the new eviction moratorium mandate. As the ordinance stands now, residential tenants in Austin who are facing eviction for failure to pay rent because of related COVID-19 conditions must receive notice of a proposed eviction at least 60 days before an Austin landlord can file an action. The notice must include a right to cure provision, meaning that a tenant will have 60 days to make up for any missed rental payments.

    • This ordinance will remain in place through October 15, 2021, which is longer than the federal mandate. Additionally, Austin landlords will only be allowed to give notices to vacate for nonpayment under the following conditions:

      • Austin renters that pay $2,475 or less per month can only receive such a notice if they owe more than five months’ worth of rent and have exhausted all state remedies. This condition applies from August 1, 2021, to August 31, 2021. 
      • The condition gets reduced to only three months’ worth of missed rental payments from the period between September 1, 2021, to October 15, 2021. All other parameters remain the same.
  • San Marcos: San Marcos legislatures adopted an ordinance that grants a tenant in the city 90 days to cure missed rental payments that were caused by the pandemic. Thus, landlords must provide notice of a proposed eviction that includes this 90-day to cure provision within its instructions. The ordinance will terminate at the same time the city declares that the emergency is over.
  • Dallas: Similar to Austin, residential tenants in Dallas must receive an eviction notice that contains a right to cure clause, along with information on rental assistance programs. Dallas tenants will also be given 21 days to renegotiate the terms of a lease agreement with their respective landlords. However, in order to take advantage of the renegotiation provision, the tenant will need to submit actual proof that they are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19 issues.

As for Texas homeowners whose houses are in foreclosure, their mortgage lenders will not be allowed to evict them until at least September 30, 2021, and possibly longer depending on how long it takes the nation or Texas itself to heal. If a mortgage lender is attempting to evict a homeowner before this date, the homeowner should seek relief through federal and state mortgage loan programs, such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. 

For more information regarding eviction ban ordinances in a specific area of Texas, tenants should visit the website for their local county. 

What if I’m Being Evicted Due to a Coronavirus Issue? What Protections Do I Have in Texas?

The answer to this question will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The type of coronavirus issue that a tenant is facing;
  • The county in which a Texas residential tenant lives;
  • Whether the tenant is considered a commercial or a residential tenant;
  • Whether there is an active ordinance in the county where a tenant lives;
  • Whether the tenant meets the requirements to receive rental assistance due to a coronavirus issue under one of Texas’s rental assistance programs; 
  • Whether the federal eviction moratorium is still in effect; and
  • Whether the tenant has actual proof that the coronavirus impacted their ability to pay rent.

If the tenant is strictly referring to the question of whether they can be evicted because they were sick with COVID-19, then the answer is no. A landlord cannot ask a tenant about an illness or any other type of disability. Landlords also cannot treat tenants differently if they say they do have a disability or illness. This is true regardless of whether the illness is COVID-19 or some other medical condition. A landlord cannot evict a tenant for this reason alone. 

What Other Texas Tenant Protections and Resources are Related to Coronavirus? 

Aside from the different rental assistance and mortgage loan programs being offered by the federal government and/or Texas state, an individual may be able to seek relief as well as some other protections under separate regulations. 

For example, the CARES Act protects residential tenants who live on “covered properties” from being evicted, charged late fees, and/or assigned other penalties associated with overdue rent payments. Under the Act, Texas landlords must also suspend evictions for missed payments, provide written notice about tenant rights during this period, and allow for some flexibility in collecting rental payments from tenants.

In addition, the CARES Act has extended forbearance for homeowners with multifamily properties that are backed by federal loans until September 30, 2021.

Some other great resources related to the coronavirus and tenant protections that Texas tenants and homeowners should review include:

  • The website for the Texas Apartment Association;
  • The StopTX Evictions website;
  • Texas legal aid services that are located in or near the county where a tenant lives;
  • The website for the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (“TDHCA”);
  • The Texas Rent Relief Program (“TRR”);
  • The Texas Eviction Diversion program (“TEDP”);
  • The websites for various federal and state courts in Texas; and
  • State or local ordinances.  

In addition, tenants and homeowners who are not sure of the rules in their particular county should consult a Texas lawyer in their area for further legal guidance. For those who cannot afford attorneys during these hard times, there are many free legal aid services throughout the state of Texas that would be more than willing to offer some assistance. 

Should I Contact a Texas Lawyer for COVID-19 Eviction Issues?

Although standard eviction issues are certainly not new to those who reside in the state of Texas, eviction issues in the age of COVID-19 may present some unfamiliar legal problems. Therefore, if you have any questions or concerns regarding COVID-19 eviction issues in Texas, then it is strongly recommended that you contact a local Texas landlord tenant lawyer for further legal advice.

An experienced landlord tenant lawyer who practices in Texas will already be familiar with the newly updated COVID-19 eviction guidelines. Your lawyer can inform you of your rights and obligations under these new rules. Your lawyer can also explain how those rules might affect the terms of your mortgage or lease and whether you are in danger of being evicted.

In addition, your lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system and can discuss how the eviction process works in the state of Texas. Finally, your lawyer will also be able to provide representation at any legal proceedings that are related to your COVID-19-related eviction case.