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Pilot eviction diversion program launches October 12; Scheduled to go statewide November 9

Synopsis

Texas will begin implementing a pilot Eviction Diversion Program in 19 counties starting October 12. This program is expected to be available statewide later this year. Learn more. NOTE: This article was updated October 8.


Key takeaways

  • The state will begin piloting a new Eviction Diversion Program in 19 Texas counties beginning October 12.
  • This new program is scheduled to be offered statewide beginning November 9. If that timeline changes, the Texas Apartment Association will advise members.
  • The Eviction Diversion Program and a related rental assistance program that will offer eligible participants funding for up to six months’ rent, including past rents starting in April 2020, is being funded by the state from a portion of CARES Act funding received.
  • The Texas Apartment Association is sponsoring a free webinar on the new programs Thursday, October 8 at 2 p.m. Learn more and reserve your spot. 

Beginning October 12 eviction cases in 19 Texas counties, including Bexar, Brazos, El Paso, Harris, Montgomery and Potter/Randall counties, will be eligible to participate in a voluntary pilot eviction diversion program in cases involving non-payment of rent that have occurred since April 2020.*

If both owners and residents qualify for the program and agree to participate, the program may cover up to six months of rent.

Below is preliminary information about the program that was developed by the Texas Office of Court Administration (OCA). Additional details about the program, such as how payments will be processed and what type of forms may be needed, are expected to be available in the near future. More information on the program will be posted at www.taa.org and also www.txcourts.gov/eviction-diversion.

Members can also learn more about this new Eviction Diversion Program, and a related rental assistance program that can offer eligible participants up to six months’ rent, including past rent from April 2020 forward, during a free webinar Thursday, October 8 at 2 p.m. Learn more and reserve your spot now.

The Texas Eviction Diversion Program (TEDP) helps renters who are behind on their rent and facing eviction because of impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic stay in their homes by providing up to six months of rental assistance. This temporary, voluntary program is a unique partnership between the OCA, the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA).

The program utilizes a special court process to provide rental property owners and residents an alternative to the eviction process. Lump-sum payments are provided to property owners for rent in exchange for allowing residents to remain in their homes and forgiving late fees.

Funding has been allocated to certain community agencies in each of the participating counties to distribute to funds-eligible rental property owners/renters and can cover up to six months of rent (from April 2020). The money can be used to cover both past due rent and future rent up to that six-month total (e.g. five months past due rent and 1-month rent going forward).

Rental property owners must agree to waive late payment fees and their claims (both for non-payment of rent or others), and the funding will be direct-deposited to the property owner. Renters must meet income eligibility requirements (at or below 200 percent of poverty or 80 percent of Area Median Income) and be financially affected by COVID-19. See the eligibility requirements and documents needed below.

LANDLORD / UNIT

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Assistance for rent no older than April 2020
  • Rent for the household assisted may not exceed the TDHCA maximum limits (see website for your area)
  • Must have a bank account and accept direct deposit
  • Units that are already receiving project-based assistance or are public housing units are INELIGIBLE
  • Units that are owned by a unit of government may be ineligible

Documents Needed:

  • Copy of the executed lease with the tenant or if no written lease, required certification proving tenancy
  • Documentation of Missed Payments (ledger, etc.)
  • IRS W-9
  • Landlord TEDA form completed
  • Landlord TEDA certification completed

Landlord Will Be Required to Certify that Landlord:

  • Will waive late penalties and court fees
  • Has not received assistance from another program for the same months of rent for this client and will not apply in the future
  • Will release the tenant from payment liability for this time period, waive all claims raised in the eviction case, and not evict the tenant for the period covered by the TEDP
  • Will reimburse the TEDP within 10 business days if you receive rent payment for this same time period
  • If no written lease, will certify the lease term, rent amount and be able to provide proof of tenancy

TENANT / HOUSEHOLD

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Household income at or below 200% of poverty or 80% of Area Median Income*
  • Household has been financially affected by COVID-19 pandemic
  • Tenants are INELIGIBLE if they are receiving tenant-based voucher assistance, are in a unit receiving project-based assistance, or are in public housing

Documents Needed:

  • Personal ID
  • If no written lease, evidence of unit tenancy
  • Income: evidence of eligibility under other qualified program OR income evidence for past 30 days
  • Tenant TEDA form completed.
  • Tenant TEDA certification completed

Tenant Will Be Required to Certify that:

  • Tenant’s household has been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Tenant has not received rental assistance for the same months of rent and will not seek such assistance in the future for the covered months
  • Tenant has not previously received rental assistance funded with CARES funds that, together with this assistance, will exceed six months in total
  • If no written lease, must certify lease term, rent amount and ability to provide proof of tenancy

The Supreme Court’s 27th Emergency Order sets up court procedures for property owners and residents to opt into the program and for courts to handle cases when they do.

Simplified, the court process is as follows:

  1. Property owners must review the information on the program at www.txcourts.gov/eviction-diversion and state in their petition for eviction that they have done so. TAA has revised its eviction petition form to meet this requirement.
  2. The citation (notices from the court that a tenant has been sued for eviction) in eviction proceedings must have attached to it a TEDP brochure (English/Spanish version linked; other languages are available) and contain the language: “You may be able to stop your eviction if you and your landlord agree to participate in the Texas Eviction Diversion Program. At your trial, the court will tell you about the Program and ask if you are interested in participating. Find out more about the Program in the attached brochure, titled State of Texas Eviction Diversion Program, and at www.txcourts.gov/eviction-diversion/.”
  3. On the trial date and at the beginning of the eviction trial, the Justice of the Peace must discuss with the property owner and renter the TEDP and inquire whether they are interested in participating in the program.
  4. If both parties express an interest in participating in the TEDP, the Justice of the Peace will abate or suspend the eviction proceeding for 60 days, make all of the information and records of the eviction action confidential to prohibit disclosure to the public, and inform the parties of the reinstatement and dismissal procedures in #5 below. The JP will also refer the parties to an applicable community agency for the county for the application process to continue.
  5. At any time during the 60-day delay period, the property owner can file a motion to reinstate the eviction case with the judge. The motion must be served on the residents. The judge is then required to reinstate the eviction case, set it for trial within 21 days, inform the parties how to proceed, and make the records and information non-confidential.
  6. If the Justice of the Peace does not receive a motion to reinstate the case within the 60-day abatement period, the JP must dismiss the eviction case with prejudice, including any claims that do not involve the nonpayment of rent. All court information and records must stay confidential and not available for disclosure to the public.

The program is being funded with $3.3 million of funds available through the CARES Act. A statewide program using a portion of funds set aside for rental assistance is currently scheduled to be effective on November 9. It isn’t known at this time whether the statewide program will have the same requirements as the pilot program or if the requirements will be modified.

*All counties included in the eviction diversion pilot program are: Bee, Bexar, Brazos, Chambers, Deaf Smith, El Paso, Erath, Fannin, Grayson, Harris, Jim Wells, Kleberg, Montgomery, Randall, Palo Pinto, Parker, Potter, San Patricio and Wise. Travis County was initially identified as a pilot county but has opted out of the pilot program.

More information on the application process, eligibility determinations, and payment process will be coming soon. Check www.taa.org for updates.

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