Did Governor Abbott Just Help Texas Landlords?

for rent
  • Despite a robust economic recovery, some local eviction moratoriums are still in place in Texas.
  • As a result, the local municipalities are requiring landlords to subsidize aid that should come from the local government.
  • But Governor Abbott’s latest executive order may have overruled those local orders.

Its dumb for me to start this blog by saying that COVID has been very tough on property owners. I mean – it has been but its been tough on everyone. And that includes both landlords and tenants throughout the US.

I work with a lot of landlords and I don’t know one that wasn’t extremely sympathetic to what their tenants were going through during COVID. So when different governments came through and asked them to subsidize their tenants rental payments, they were not thrilled, but they understood. For a while.

But August 2021 is not September 2020. Not only are a lot of people back to work – there have been news stories all over the place about businesses not being able to find help. As a result, its past time to stop asking landlords to subsidize the government’s efforts to support those in need.

Thankfully, the CDC has decided not to extend its eviction moratorium – despite a request from the Biden administration. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Texas Supreme Court and the City of Austin. In the blog this week, therefore, we will talk about what eviction rules still exist and whether Governor Abbott just revoked all of them.

What is Still Standing

The CDC’s eviction moratorium officially expired on July 31, 2021.** As you certainly recall, this was a nationwide moratorium against evicting tenants for non-payment of rent if the tenant submitted an affidavit that he or she could not afford to pay his or her rent because of COVID. Thankfully, despite a request from the Biden administration to continue the moratorium, the CDC did not do so.

The Texas Supreme Court recently extended its pre-trial diversion program until at least October 1, 2021. Frankly, though, the Supreme Court’s program can be beneficial to both landlords and tenants. It simply requires landlords and tenants to head to the eviction diversion program prior to moving forward with an eviction proceeding if both parties agree to do so. In the program, the landlord and tenant try to find a payment plan that will work for both or see if there is any assistance available to the tenant.

Sadly, Austin’s eviction moratorium is not nearly as well designed. Its basically the same policy that I’ve written about previously – a landlord cannot evict a tenant for non-payment of rent if the rent is below $2450 per month. On July 27, the City extended the order with a couple of edits. From August 1 through August 31, if a tenant’s rent is $2,475 a month or less, landlords can only give notices to vacate for nonpayment if a tenant owes more than five months rent and the tenant has exhausted all rental assistance remedies. From September 1, through October 15, if a tenant’s rent is $2,475 a month or less, landlords can only give notices to vacate for nonpayment if a tenant owes more than three months rent and the tenant has exhausted all rental assistance remedies. In addition, the City is still requiring landlords to provide a 60 day notice of proposed eviction.

On Friday, Mayor Adler tweeted

“Austin continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in Texas and is tied with NYC for the lowest unemployment in the US! While the rest of Texas continues to recover, Austin remains one of the largest driving forces of the state’s workforce and economy.”

Despite this true statement, Mayor Adler continues to ask landlords to subsidize the government’s efforts to help people who cannot or will not pay rent. At this point, its just baffling why these moratoriums are still in force.

Did Governor Abbott Overrule Mayor Adler?

But help may be on the way for landlords. On July 29, Governor Abbott released a new executive order. In that order, Abbott stated –

“As stated above, business activities and legal proceedings are free to proceed without COVID-19 related limitations imposed by local governmental entities or officials. This paragraph 3 supersedes any conflicting local order in response to the COVID-19 disaster, and all relevant laws are suspended to the extent necessary to preclude any such inconsistent local orders.”

That sure sounds like Governor Abbott is saying is time to put aside the local orders and ordinances and go back to the normal Texas statutes governing evictions. As of this writing, its not clear whether courts will interpret Governor Abbott’s order to invalidate the local Austin (and other local) orders. But if I were arguing to a JP Court, that is exactly the argument we will make. I guess we will see shortly if the JP Courts agree.

** Since I wrote this blog post, the CDC has extended its eviction moratorium until October 3, 2021. It applies in counties that are experiencing substantial or high rates of COVID transmission. This would very likely apply in the big Texas counties.

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