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Tuesday, May 4, 2021 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT
After yearlong ban, Austin and Travis County will let some landlords file evictions starting in June
Austin-area renters who have not paid rent for five months or more and have exhausted all rent assistance will once again be subject to eviction beginning June 1.
Most other residential tenants and some commercial tenants will be safe from eviction until at least Aug. 1.
On Friday, Austin and Travis County officials extended an eviction ban that has been in place for much of the pandemic; the order was set to expire Saturday. But this time there were some changes, most notably that landlords may now file an eviction against a tenant who owes five months or more of rent going back to April 2020. In these cases, the landlord and the tenant must have exhausted all rental assistance options.
There are additional exceptions to these orders. The bans apply only to residential tenants who pay no more than $2,475 a month in rent and to commercial tenants who run businesses affected most by the pandemic, including bars, restaurants and live music venues.
“The orders Judge (Andy) Brown and I have each signed still prevent many evictions. They also incentivize connecting eligible landlords or tenants to City and County rental assistance programs,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler wrote in a press release.
But Emily Blair, executive vice president of the Austin Apartment Association, said the extension of the order means some landlords will continue to struggle with a loss of income – in this case, unpaid rent.
“While other small business owners are being supported with the lifting of mandates and regulations to enable them to recover from the pandemic, rental housing providers are being mandated to provide their goods and services for free, some for now 18 months,” Blair wrote in an emailed statement. “With this turn of events, many small property owners are having to make do-or-die decisions with their businesses.”
Blair said the Austin Apartment Association supports the expansion of rent assistance programs.
Renters – and in some cases, landlords – can apply for rent help from the city, county or state. The city of Austin has been doling out $25 million in federal funds through a program for people who need help paying rent.
But some of these programs have been slow to help tenants affected financially by the pandemic. By the end of March, the state had gotten money to fewer than 1 percent of those who had applied. Tenants who applied to an earlier iteration of the city’s rent assistance program complained of burdensome document requirements and a long delay in getting rent paid once they were approved.
“The city and the county have a lot of control of processing speeds for those programs for these orders to work effectively,” Shoshana Krieger, project director at Building and Strengthening Tenant Action (BASTA), told KUT. “It is of paramount concern that these programs process the applications quickly.”
Editor’s Note: Andy Brown is on the board of the Capital of Texas Media Foundation, the parent nonprofit of the Austin Monitor.
This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.
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