Many tenant advocate organizations and elected officials are concerned about a “wave” of evictions on the horizon as eviction moratoria put in place in response to COVID-19 begin to expire. Here are some alternatives to eviction that property owners may consider prior to initiating formal legal action, and some reasons why they may work for you. Special thanks to TAA’s 2019-2020 President Mark Hurley for his contributions to this article.
- Eviction alternatives exist, including community resident resources.
- TAA has produced resources for renters in English and Spanish which may be of use to residents in challenging situations.
- Beginning the eviction process costs a property owner an average of $3,500, among other negative consequences.
In mid-March, the Texas Supreme Court put a “hold” on evictions for non-payment of rent. That temporary delay was extended once, but expired after the Court issued another order on May 14.
While evictions for non-payment of rent are now allowed to proceed in Texas for properties that are not subject to the federal CARES Act prohibition on covered properties or subject to other local mandates affecting the eviction process, there are still a number of practical reasons to consider alternatives before opting to pursue an eviction.
Why? Cost is one reason. According to Transunion, the average eviction costs a property owner approximately $3,500. Evictions may also:
- Strain the relationship between residents, property managers and other onsite employees
- Result in bad publicity and sometimes viral negativity in the age of social media—especially in light of the ongoing concerns about COVID-19 and the possible spread of coronavirus
- Cause vacancies and related income losses, and
- Result in additional make-ready costs.
Communicating with residents once a situation arises may help to identify alternatives.
- Can the resident pay the sums due? If not, the property owner and resident may agree to a move-out date before pursuing eviction.
- Can an Eviction Holdoff Agreement be executed to formalize a payment plan? See the payment plan agreement (essentially an Eviction Holdoff Agreement) and temporary waiver of late fees agreements TAA developed for the COVID-19 pandemic. (These are available in English and Spanish; TAA member login is required.)
In addition to these options, some property owners may consider developing a list of resident relief organizations in the area that are able to help residents with rent payments. Many local communities have developed or are in the process of developing rental assistance programs in response to the pandemic, so additional resources may be available now in addition to long-standing charitable organizations that offer relief. TAA has also produced resources for renters in English and Spanish that include local resources in the major market areas.
Remember: Eviction is more than a filing
While eviction may be the only solution in some circumstances, like in all legal actions, the process may be time-consuming and subject to unpredictable delays. This is especially true now, since non-payment of rent eviction hearings have not been held since mid-March and in some cases may still be delayed under either CARES Act provisions or by local ordinance or action.
In cases of non-payment of rent, holdover at the end of the lease term or conduct prohibited by the lease, such as damage to property or impinging on the rights of their neighbors, a Notice to Vacate can be given to notify residents that their right to possession has been terminated prior to seeking an eviction. Note that some cities have passed ordinances that require notices of “intent” to file an eviction—these must be given BEFORE a notice to vacate is given. Please check with your local apartment association to confirm any relevant restrictions in your area.
Once an eviction petition is filed the owner pays a filing fee. Between 10 and 21 days later, a resident is served with the eviction lawsuit and a trial is set. THIS IN ITSELF IS NOT AN EVICTION.
- The resident may vacate the property prior to the trial date
- At the eviction trial, the judge may give the resident more time to either pay or vacate, encourage the parties to work out an agreement or agree with the property owner to evict the resident;
- If the property owner wins, the eviction could be appealed to county court by the resident being evicted.
Special thanks to TAA’s 2019-2020 President Mark Hurley for his contributions to this article. A version of this article (pre-pandemic) is in the 2020-2021 edition of the TAA REDBOOK.