Texas Legal Aid Providers Offer Housing Resources During Coronavirus Pandemic

As a new month approaches, many people across Texas are still reeling from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and are struggling to make rent. The Texas Supreme Court issued its 12th emergency order extending the statewide eviction trial moratorium to help Texans unable to pay their rent. This order extends the moratorium until May 18th with no writs of possession until after May 25th. Several counties across Texas have extended moratorium deadlines even later. 

In the meantime, Texas legal aid organizations are at the forefront helping low-income people across the state navigate this unprecedented crisis with their housing needs. Splitting the State of Texas into 3 service areas, these organizations are Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, Lone Star Legal Aid, and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.

These organizations are accepting applications to assist individuals with 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 particular service area.

The organizations’ common goal 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 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 weren’t allowed to evict 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.

If I am evicted on May 19, 2020, how soon would they 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.

Why May 25, 2020?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court of Texas has halted most eviction hearings in Texas until at least May 18, 2020. Officers cannot post 24-hour removal notices until May 19, 2020. 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 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. In Texas, officers 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 vacate notices until May 19, 2020.

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.

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

Texas has loosened up its requirements for filing unemployment. Texans who have 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. 


**IMPORTANT UPDATE**

Many properties are protected beyond May 18, 2020. Landlords for federally subsidized or federally backed housing are barred from evicting tenants for not paying rent or fees late for 120 days starting March 27, 2020. As a renter, you are still liable for the rent, but you cannot be evicted for not paying rent or late fees during those 120 days.

For some properties, you can search the HUD resource locator to see if your rental is included. If your rental is not in there, you may still be protected. You can search your county clerk’s records to find out if Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac have an interest in the place you live or you can contact us for assistance in determining if this applies to the place you live.

This information is accurate as of 4/28/20. 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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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, foreclosure prevention, consumer issues, and community revitalization matters. Media contact: Shelby Jean, Director of Communications, 817-339-5384, jeans@lanwt.org.

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, environmental justice, disaster recovery, tax relief, family law, domestic violence, sexual assault, crime victim rights, veterans benefits, and more. Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, Communications Director, 832-627-8404, cayala@lonestarlegal.org.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (trla.org) — Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. 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. Media contact: Shelby Alexander, Communications Director, 512-374-2717, salexander@trla.org.