Texas Courts Open Eviction Floodgates: 'We Just Stepped Off A Cliff'

Judges in Texas are being told it’s not their job to enforce a CDC order aimed at stopping evictions. Housing groups fear that a wave of unnecessary evictions will leave thousands homeless.

The Texas state court system is signaling that it will no longer enforce a federal order aimed at stopping evictions during the coronavirus pandemic. That could clear the way for landlords to push ahead with tens of thousands of eviction cases that have been on hold.

The timing could be particularly painful for many families, coming after Congress has approved billions of dollars to help people pay the rent they owe to avoid eviction but before the vast majority of renters have been able to receive any of that money.

Legal aid attorneys are raising the alarm that the state is about to allow a wave of people to be put out of their homes, with no place to go.

“We’ve had a failure of leadership that’s going to result in tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Texans becoming homeless in relatively short order,” says Mark Melton, who heads up a pro bono team of 175 volunteer lawyers in Dallas.

“It’s devastating,” says Christiane Daugherty, a 60-year-old technology consultant who lost her job last year when COVID-19 hit. Her adult son also lost his job at a restaurant, and they moved in together to try to survive.

Daugherty just landed another job and has applied for rental assistance. But she had fallen behind on rent, and this past Friday, a judge ruled her landlord could evict her 

“We’re just starting to get on our feet. This would just kill me,” says Daugherty, who worries that losing her home will also mean losing her new job. “I work from home, and I’ll have no money to go get in a hotel or anything.”

What has changed is that an emergency order issued by the Texas Supreme Court has just expired. It had required judges to enforce a federal eviction moratorium from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under which landlords cannot evict people like Daugherty if they sign a declaration saying they have no other good housing options.

The CDC’s order is aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 from people being forced into more crowded living situations such as homeless shelters or doubling up with other families.

After the Texas Supreme Court didn’t extend its directive, an advisory body to the Texas courts went further. The Texas Justice Court Training Center issued guidance essentially telling judges it’s not their job to enforce the CDC’s order.

“Courts are no longer authorized by the Texas Supreme Court to abate (put on hold) [ … ]

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Posted by perry p

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