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Updated: Travis County extends moratorium on evictions until July 25

Friday, June 12, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

In a new order issued Thursday, Travis County announced it will continue to push back issuing notices to vacate until July 25. This order is applicable countywide and includes the city of Austin.

Previously, the county extended a similar order until June 1. This order picks up on June 11 and leaves a gap of 10 days.

Justice of the Peace Nicholas Chu told the Austin Monitor that even with a gap between orders it is unlikely that many evictions proceedings were initiated. He pointed to the other layers of tenant protection at city and federal level as safeguards that continued even as the county order lapsed. Additionally, he said that countywide, “the courts aren’t really hearing evictions en masse yet.”

Shoshana Krieger, who is a project director with Building and Strengthening Tenant Action (BASTA), told the Monitor that, in fact “landlords can still file an eviction based on an illegal notice to vacate and that case can be heard.” The Eviction Solidarity Network has been keeping track of evictions on their dashboard and has witnessed more than 100 cases over the last two weeks. One family who said they were currently suffering from COVID-19 was evicted two days ago,” explained Krieger.

Under the county order, landlords are prohibited from issuing notices to vacate. The eviction process begins with a notice to vacate, giving tenants one to three days either to pay rent or 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.

County Judge Sam Biscoe noted in the rationale for the eviction moratorium extension that issuing notices to vacate “will destabilize the economy and will contribute to additional person-to-person contact” during the ongoing public health crisis caused by Covid-19.

The county’s notification of a further delay in eviction hearings complements the city of Austin’s moratorium that was extended until July 25. Revised city ordinances also require landlords to give tenants 60 days to clear the violation before issuing a notice to vacate. In addition, the CARES Act extended protections against late fees and eviction proceedings for eligible properties until Aug. 24.

When these tenant protections expire, the burden of proof will remain on the landlord to demonstrate that they correctly followed all eviction procedures. According to the order, eviction filings made before the expiration of a notice to vacate can be rejected by the court because the landlord was prohibited from issuing a notice to vacate or because the landlord filed the case before the tenant departure period passed.

The county’s newest order contains an exception for tenants who pose an imminent threat of physical harm to other residents or the property owner. These protections are also waived if criminal activity is identified.

This article has been updated. It originally conflated “notices to vacate” with evictions, which are two different things.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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