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Judge To Renters: Understand Your Rights As The CDC's Moratorium On Evictions Begins

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Joey Palacios | Texas Public Radio
The CDC's moratorium on evictions lasts until Dec. 31.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium went into effect Friday, meaning many renters who would otherwise be without a residence now have the chance to stay put. But not everyone may benefit.

Precinct 4, Place 1 Judge Rogelio Lopez said he has a backlog of about 400 eviction cases. When he starts hearing them again on Tuesday, he doesn’t expect the national eviction moratorium to have a huge impact on the cases.

“It's hard to protect your rights when you don't know what they are,” Lopez said.

Renters must meet qualifications to be protected. To qualify, they must sign a declaration form that states the following:

  • The renter has tried their best to get all available government assistance for rent or housing.
  • They earn no more than $99,000, or $198,000 if filing joint taxes in 2020.
  • They did not file any income with the IRS in 2019.
  • They are unable to pay their rent due to “substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.”

It lasts until Dec. 31. Then, accumulated rent and fees must be paid.
The CDC said the moratorium is meant to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has killed almost 190,000 people in the United States, as of early September, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University..

“It's not a true moratorium,” Lopez said. “This is more along the lines of a defense because the order put in place by the CDC says that you only gained these protections under certain circumstances.”

But if a renter qualifies to be protected by the moratorium, he said it starts immediately after a renter provides a landlord with a written declaration stating that they’re qualified. The declaration can be given to the landlord at any time -- in court or even if a ruling on the eviction has already been made.

“If an eviction has already taken place, and a judgment has taken place, and the constable’s on his way to serve and have somebody evicted … then that automatically stops it,” Lopez explained. “But again you have to know that.”

Before the pandemic, Lopez said he used to decide evictions over the course of two mornings per week and consider about 250-300 cases during that time frame. He still expected to decide that many cases in a week, but he estimated that will take him nearly twice as much time.

Lopez said it’s important for people to know that evictions are still happening in San Antonio, and if people want a chance at legally staying in their homes, the best thing they can do is go to court to see what their options are. Not going to court automatically results in the favor of those who show up.

Court proceedings vary from precinct to precinct, but Lopez said judges are often providing people options for attending proceedings.

To download a copy of the Declaration for Temporarily Halt in Evictions form, visit the Justice of the Peace website.

Jolene Almendarez can be reached at JoleneAlmendarez@gmail.com and on Twitter at @jalmendarez57.

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