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Texas Supreme Court order doesn’t nullify Austin’s eviction protections

Monday, May 18, 2020 by Nina Hernandez

Last week, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that eviction proceedings and debt collections, which have been paused during the Covid-19 pandemic, can once again move forward. But that doesn’t mean eviction proceedings will go forward in Austin any time soon.

On May 8, Mayor Steve Adler announced he would extend the city’s eviction moratorium until July 25. At the end of March, City Council approved an ordinance giving renters affected by Covid-19 an extra 60 days to come up with rent once a landlord begins eviction proceedings.

“We read the Texas Supreme Court news as not overriding the mayor’s ban on even starting failure-to-pay evictions,” Council Member Greg Casar said. “Nor does it override the extra-60-days ordinance.”

With those measures in place, the city has helped buy renters facing an avalanche of debt more time.

“Whether or not the Texas Supreme Court affects the Justices of the Peace, no evictions are allowed to even start until after July under our current rules,” Casar said. “And even then our new laws give people extra time to pay July and August rent.”

He continued: “And we may likely extend those timelines if we’re still in crisis, which is unfortunately likely.”

Precinct 5 Justice Nick Chu explained that the eviction process is a complex set of procedures that must be carried out in a specific manner. Once a lease agreement is violated, the landlord has to issue a notice to vacate that gives tenants one to three days to leave the property. If the tenant does not leave the property, the landlord has to file an eviction in court and obtain an eviction order. Now, under the new ordinance, landlords must also give tenants 60 days to clear the violation before issuing notice to vacate.

Besides the city’s action, the Justices of the Peace currently have all eviction proceedings on hold until June 1, along with nonessential court proceedings and class C ticket appearances. Chu anticipates it will take until the end of June for hearings to resume. But because of the city’s action, it is likely landlords seeking eviction will have to wait until July 25.

“The Supreme Court order doesn’t change any of the protections or things that Travis County is doing,” he said, “because we’re so ahead of the game in terms of these eviction protections.”

When the protections do eventually expire, Chu noted that the burden is on the landlord to prove they’ve taken all of these necessary steps to notify the tenant of the violation and allow the proper amount of time to correct it as required by the city ordinance.

“Everything is all on the landlord,” Chu said. “Because it’s the burden of proof on the landlord to show that they’ve done all the steps correctly, they have to do all the steps correctly. It’s not like they could do it all wrong and still win on an eviction case.”

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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