Austin And Travis County Extend Eviction Bans As Federal Protections Are Set To Expire
Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown have extended a ban on evictions until Feb. 1.
“In the next few weeks, many Travis County families will be celebrating holidays, a vaccine will become available for our community, and at the same time increasing COVID cases continue to be a challenge,” Brown wrote in an emailed statement. “Now is not the time to roll back these important protections. We must continue to make the health and safety of our community our number one priority.”
The orders prohibit landlords from starting the legal eviction process against a tenant, which begins when they post a "notice to vacate" on a renter’s door.
The order extends to residential tenants paying no more than $2,475 a month in rent and is only applicable in cases where a residential landlord wants to evict a tenant over unpaid rent; landlords can still evict renters for other reasons, such as if they feel they pose a threat of physical harm. The order also applies to commercial renters operating businesses heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; this includes child care facilities, live music venues, bars and restaurants.
At the same time, judges who oversee evictions will continue to hold off on residential cases where the landlord is trying to evict someone over unpaid rent.
“City, county, and court officials have worked very hard in trying to create a comprehensive strategy so that this public health crisis isn’t exacerbated by a housing crisis,” Travis County Justice of the Peace Nicholas Chu, who hears eviction cases, wrote in an emailed statement.
Public health researchers at universities across the country recently published a study in which they found that in states where an eviction ban was lifted, COVID-19 cases rose. In Texas, where the highest court allowed judges to begin hearing eviction cases again in May, researchers estimated evictions may have resulted in an additional 4,500 COVID-19 deaths.
The idea that evictions are a public health concern is precisely why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a federal moratorium on evictions earlier this year. But housing advocates have noted that over the past several months many renters were still being evicted despite this nationwide protection.
The City of Austin recently accepted final applications for a $12.9 million rent assistance program. But last week council members approved another $2 million for rental assistance, which the city says should be available to tenants in January.
While most evictions continue to be banned locally, rent that goes unpaid and any late fees charged by landlords will come due when local moratoriums end.
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