Eviction hearings have resumed in Bexar County Justice of the Peace Courts as the COVID-19 outbreak worsens locally.
Many San Antonians, residents in suburban cities, and in unincorporated areas of the county fell behind on rent and house payments after losing their jobs when businesses closed due to the outbreak.
Eviction hearings for Precinct 2, which covers West and Northwest San Antonio, began on Monday. Hearings start within days in the other JP courts.
Bexar County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez said some of the combined $29 million set aside by the city and county to help residents avoid evictions is still available.
“For those that need assistance I would ask that they be directed to the county website, bexar.org, or the city website, sanantonio.gov, or they can call 210-207-5910,” he said.
Ben Olivo is editor of the online news organization the San Antonio Heron. He said all four Bexar County precincts have a backlog of cases since a moratorium was enacted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"And so it's going to take each precinct at least two to three weeks from what the judges are telling me before they go through the backlog. So even if you get an eviction notice this week, it's still going to be weeks and weeks before you go before a judge,” Olivo said.
Olivo said city officials are asking landlords and tenants to use that time to work out a payment agreement rather than going to court, which results in displacement most of the time.
City officials estimate that half of rental properties — about 130,000 —are protected from eviction under the CARES Act through July 24. That's because those properties received federal funding.
Commissioner Rodriguez said there are 1,500 eviction cases backlogged in county precinct two alone and around 6,000 countywide.
He said the city and county will also have monitors in eviction hearings to connect residents with financial aid, serving as case workers.
Rodriguez said local government is also working to provide housing at a local hotel for anyone who is evicted.
He is also hoping for some compassion for those facing evictions.
“We’re hopeful that the JP courts will show some compassion, of course that landlords will show some compassion to make sure people have roofs over the head. We know that there is a spike in cases. We want to make sure people have a place to stay,” said Rodriguez.