The Texas Supreme Court’s emergency order requiring judges to enforce a federal eviction moratorium from the Centers for Disease and Prevention aim at preventing people from being evicted and forced into crowded shelters and other places where the coronavirus Covid-19 can spread more easily has expired and was not renewed. An advisory body to the court, the Texas Justice Court Training Center, said it was not the job of judges to enforce the CDC order. “Courts are no longer authorized by the Texas Supreme Court to abate cases based on the CDC eviction moratorium” read a statement by the group. Legal advocate Tammy Ortiz disagrees, “judges don’t get to pick and chose which laws and regulations they want to recognize and enforce.”
The Texas Apartment Association, the largest association in Texas representing landlords said the confusing statement by the advisory group is not consistent with the CDC order and that the “courts do have the ability to consider CDC declarations” said David Mintz. Additionally, landlords can face jail time and large fines that can be enforced in federal court if the state courts fail to adhere to the CDC eviction moratorium.
Landlord we talked to seem to be split on the issue. Miranda Radcliff owns 10 duplex units in Baytown, just east of Houston, and said she is still making payments on her duplex units to the bank that she bought in 2015 and doesn’t have a large cash stockpile to let tenants not pay. “If my tenants don’t pay, I have no choice but to evict them and get a new paying tenant in there or I will lose the unit. I really don’t want to evict, but I’m in a tough position myself.” Miranda was able to secure a bank loan to help her get by some with two of her tenants not making rental payments and allowed them to stay in the unit. But that money has run out and she said she will be trying to evict her tenants. “It’s just awful, it tears me up at night. It’s not fair to the tenant, it’s not fair to me,” Radcliff said as she cried.
It’s not just the lack of rent causing the hardship, the rental unit still have to have maintenance done, payroll and labor for employees to operate the place and insurance and taxes paid costly the landlord thousands of dollars each year, in addition to lost rent.
Andy Goetz is the owner of a midsize apartment complex in South Houston who asked that it not be named. He has 75 units. Of those 12 are not paying rent. “I’ve been able to have a good amount of money I had been saving to expand the complex, and so my tenants who haven’t paid because they lost their jobs are still here and I don’t have any plans to ask them to leave for now,” says Goetz. “I’ve helped some get rental assistance, but that it really didn’t go very far. The CDC’s order is pretty clear, and besides that, I don’t know how I can put someone out on the street during a pandemic when I know I can essentially float them with the savings I have.” Goetz had each of his tenant who are behind sign a promissory note that once they get a job and back on their feet they will start paying rent plus a little extra each month towards their back rent.