- On September 1, the Austin City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to bring back a COVID era restriction on landlords.
- If passed, landlords will have to issue a 21-day Notice of Proposed Eviction before they can issue Notices to Vacate.
- This is a bad idea, and I encourage you to reach out to your City Council member and ask him or her to vote no on this.
During the heart of the COVID pandemic, the Austin City Council enacted a lot of orders allegedly designed to protect Austin tenants. At least at the beginning, unemployment was very high and the City wanted to make sure people were able to stay in their homes during the crisis.
I wrote a lot about this in this blog as it was happening. And in the beginning, it was understandable. But the City kept extending these laws, even as unemployment dipped considerably, people were back at work, and COVID dissipated. But FINALLY the Council let them expire. And I thought that was the end of it.
But boy am I dumb. Apparently I underestimated our City Council. And now, on the agenda for the September 1 City Council meeting, they are potentially bringing back some COVID-era regulation. And it’s a really bad idea.
Is Austin Really Going to Bring Back the Notice of Proposed Eviction?
One of the laws the City Council enacted during COVID was to require landlords issue a Notice of Proposed Eviction when they need to evict someone for non-payment of rent. Under Texas law, if a tenant does not pay rent, the landlord can send the tenant a Notice to Vacate. That gives the tenant three days to vacate the unit before the landlord starts eviction proceedings.
Under the City of Austin’s Notice of Proposed Eviction scheme, landlords are first required to give the tenant 21 day notice before they can send a Notice to Vacate. Effectively, this increases the time period prior to the landlord starting the eviction process from 3 days to 24 days.
The City Council has now put a Notice of Proposed Eviction back on the September 1 meeting agenda. If approved, this will make the Notice of Proposed Eviction a permanent aspect of the Austin landlord/tenant relationship.
This is a Bad Idea for Multiple Reasons
The headline kind of says it all. But I want to explain why this is a bad idea.
First, it goes against state law. The state has already set up the rules that govern the relationship between a landlord and tenant. And Chapter 24 of the Texas Property Code sets forth the process for how a landlord can evict a tenant if the tenant does not pay. I am not sure why the City Council thinks its proper for them to change these rules. But I would hope the State Legislature clarifies its exclusive authority in this area at the next legislative session.
Second, its not clear to me what problem the City Council is trying to solve. If a tenant has not paid his or her rent, will giving the tenant 21 extra days make it more likely he or she comes current? Is there any data to back up this assumption? Because it seems like all the Council is doing is extending a bad situation for everyone.
Third, this shifts the burden of the tenant not paying from the tenant to the landlord for 21 additional days. I fail to see why that’s fair or why landlords should have to carry that burden. If the City wants to give tenants 21 extra days to live rent free, then perhaps it should pay the landlords directly for that burden. This would spread the cost of those 21 days among all taxpayers – instead of laying it at the feet of landlords.
Finally, ultimately this is all going to lead to increased rent. Under this scheme, the time for a landlord to have a non-paying tenant necessarily increases by 21 days. As a result, the cost of building (desperately needed) housing units and the cost of managing those units automatically increases. And, as we all know, those costs will eventually trickle down to tenants through higher rents and fees.
In a city that desperately needs more housing, the City Council should be doing EVERYTHING it can to encourage development. Instead, the Council is debating enacting a law that will increase the cost of development and management. I encourage everyone reading to reach out to your City Council member’s office before September 1 and tell them to vote no on this proposal.