What do extended eviction protections mean for Dallas renters and when will rental aid be available?
A new economic stimulus package, signed on Sunday, offers warring Americans an additional month of evacuation protection as well as $ 25 billion in rental support.
The new law, which expires in late January, merely extends an eviction moratorium enacted in September by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Under the order, landlords can continue to seek eviction from residents in court, and tenants must provide evidence that they made every effort to pay part of their missed rent.
The extension comes as housing lawyers, religious leaders, landlords and elected officials urged Congress to do so at least before the eviction period expires on December 31st. Others like Dallas attorney Mark Melton believe that the moratorium alone is not enough.
“I hope it continues to grow as January 31st won’t be long enough for all of this money to be used. But more importantly, even that $ 25 billion is not enough, ”Melton said. “It sounds like a lot of money, but when you distribute it … it’s not a lot per person.”
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, tenants in the United States will owe between $ 30 billion and $ 70 billion by the end of 2020.
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs estimates that Texas is expected to receive $ 1.9 billion out of the $ 25 billion provided by the stimulus package. About $ 1 billion of this is administered by the state and $ 873 million is made available to local governments.
When the help will be available is still open. The state department of housing and communal affairs has not yet been named as the target agency for receiving the funding and “cannot yet speak about where landlords or tenants apply or when funds are available,” said spokeswoman Kristina Tirloni on Monday.
According to a report from the Aspen Institute, an estimated 30 to 40 million Americans are at risk of being evicted from their homes for failing to pay their rent. According to recent polls by the US Census Bureau, almost one in ten Dallas-Fort Worth residents is behind with rental or mortgage payments, or worried that they will be unable to make payments in the next month. This number is slightly above the national average.
An eviction crisis could displace an estimated half a million Texans from their homes, according to low-income housing association Texas Housers. The residential real estate uncertainty caused by the pandemic has hit black and Hispanic Americans disproportionately compared to white tenants, according to census data.
Despite the continued moratorium, Melton said evictions are still going on and tenants are being removed from their homes through no fault of their own. Many, Melton said, are unaware of the support available to them or the protections that the CDC regulation provides.
Below you will find some answers to frequently asked questions about how the eviction moratorium works.
Eviction protection under the CDC moratorium is neither automatic nor guaranteed. A landlord can still initiate the eviction process in court.
When a landlord requests eviction, the tenant must sign a declaration form provided by the CDC and present the form and any required documentation to the judge who will lead the eviction case. The form states that the renter has exhausted all available options to pay their rent, including partial payments when possible. Experts recommend tenants not to sign the form unless they can demonstrate that they have exhausted all options.
Yes, tenants still have to pay rent if possible. The CDC order only prevents your landlord from physically removing you from your rental unit, provided that you meet the requirements.
Tenants are still obliged to repay missed rents within the framework of the current orders and the moratorium. The CDC order does not cancel the rental, nor does it offer forgiveness of any kind.
The stimulus package signed on Sunday also included $ 600 checks for Americans earning less than $ 75,000 in 2019. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said stimulus payments could begin as of the 4th week of January to Americans with direct deposit with the IRS. After that, paper checks could be delivered.
Since the CDC order requires tenants to make every effort to pay at least part of the missed rent, experts like Melton suggest paying some of your rent regardless of whether that money is from your stimulus check or a rental assistance program comes compliant.
“It’s always in your best interest to pay for something when you can,” Melton said.
Rental aid is paid to states by the US Treasury Department and is available either directly through state programs or through local relief organizations.
The timing of the bill’s passage may delay local and state efforts to provide rental assistance.
In response to a request for more details on the payout, Dallas city spokeswoman Roxana Rubio told the Dallas Morning News on Monday that city workers with knowledge of rental support programs were out of the office.
“Information will be made available to the city council as soon as it becomes available,” said Rubio.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the city worked with organizations like the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas to help facilitate rental assistance programs.
Dallas County has approved the extension of its rental assistance program for residents outside the city of Dallas. The program, carried out by the district’s health department, was extended to 2021.
A number of attorneys, organizations and legal professionals are offering resources to tenants evicted due to the pandemic.
Mark Melton leads a group of legal experts in Dallas who provide free advice to anyone found in the eviction. You can send an email to [email protected] or text to 469-436-2704.
Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas has an online application for help with housing and other issues, or you can call the Legal Aid Line at 888-529-5277. More COVID-19 resources can be found on the website.
The Texas Tenants’ Union has posted a list of COVID-19 eviction protection measures on its website.
Stop TX Eviction has resources and information about the Texas Eviction Diversion Program on its website. The program runs in 19 counties and is expected to expand nationwide in January, according to an order from the Texas Supreme Court.
Rental assistance requests are also available through the Dallas Rental Assistance Collaborative.
Dallas Morning News reporter Nic Garcia contributed to this report.