Must-have resources for Texas rental housing industry professionals

Useful Resources for Responding to COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

The Texas Apartment Association has assembled these resources and reminders for rental housing professionals operating in the state. We are monitoring this situation closely in Texas and will continue to provide updated resources and information as warranted.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic. That term reflects the spread of the disease in significant levels in a significant number of countries.

We are not public health experts. We are providing these resources to allow members to access trusted sources in one convenient location. We recommend that you look to the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Texas Department of State Health Services and your local public health authorities for information and tips on minimizing your risk, recognizing symptoms and suggested treatments for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

If you are a renter, please see our Helpful Info for Renters. (website info page)

Resources for Renters from the Texas Apartment Association (English; includes FAQs related to coronavirus/COVID-19 and contacts of local groups that may offer assistance)

Frente al COVID-19: Recursos para inquilinos (Spanish Resources for Renters from the Texas Apartment Association)

 

Updated August 7, 2020

Look to these national real estate organizations for recommendations and best practices to guide your response to protecting your employees and residents while managing and operating your properties.

What does the governor’s mask order mean for properties?
Property owners and managers are reminded that Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order issued July 2 requires masks to be worn in public. The order is intended to help limit spread of COVID-19 at a time when the state is experiencing a surge in cases. It’s clear this order would apply to property leasing offices.

Owners may want to consult legal counsel regarding applicability of the Order and best practices for compliance. There are some limited exceptions that apply to individuals, and an exception for counties with less than 20 active COVID-19 cases IF the county judge has requested an exemption. See the counties that may be exempt. Review the order for more details and information about exceptions.

For multifamily rental property owners, there are several aspects of the order to keep in mind:

  • The order is not specific regarding what is covered as inside a “commercial entity or other building or space open to the public.” For example, while the order clearly affects leasing offices, it is not explicit whether it would be applicable in common areas not open to the general public, such as an interior hallway between units or amenities.
  • Regardless of whether the order is strictly applicable to all common area spaces at multifamily properties, given the seriousness of the pandemic and the intent to promote public health, properties may want, after consultation with legal counsel, to consider practices to help comply with the order’s intent, including educating staff and residents.
  • Although the order exempts wearing a face mask in a pool, several factors may come into play when considering masks within the immediate pool area, including the layout of furniture, the possibility of maintaining social distancing and how other amenities are arranged. Remember—pools are still limited to 50% capacity.
  • There is no mandate or duty for property owners/managers to be engaged in any type of enforcement activities and no requirements for posting signs or other notices.  Any enforcement of the order would be through local law enforcement. The order states that first violations are subject to a warning and then violators may be fined $250 for subsequent violations.

Updated guidance for swimming pools, gyms, theaters and businesses

The state’s Open Texas plan guidance checklists have been updated as of July 3 to reflect the governor’s recent order. See all available checklists. See also updated guidance for businesses.

TAA has prepared sample rules properties may use when reopening amenities, to explain policies and procedures put in place as a result of efforts to minimize the spread of coronavirus. Remember, the TAA Lease allows properties to make reasonable changes in rules during the lease term, if they are distributed to all residents, apply consistently to all residents and do not change dollar amounts on page 1 or 2. The new sample rules are intended to be customized and incorporated into your existing policies.

Eviction Petition (with required statement regarding whether the property is covered by the CARES Act; for temporary use in Texas)

Guidance from NAA on the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

CARES Act Most Common Questions (requires member login)

To help determine if your properties are covered under the CARES Act, check these searchable databases (Note: these do not include single-family properties, TAA is providing these as a resource but can not verify accuracy):

National Low Income Housing Coalition

National Housing Preservation Database

CARES Act Map This map was created by BASTA AustinTexas Housers, and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid)

Freddie Mac

Fannie Mae 

Available now: A sample Virus Warning and Waiver Addendum.This new form is a tool properties may use with residents signing a new lease. Residents are asked to acknowledge and assume risks associated with exposure to COVID-19 and other similar viruses and to release the property from liability related to those risks. This sample form is available now on the TAA website and TAA REDBOOK Online, and will be available to TAA Click & Lease users June 17.

TDHCA’s Compliance Guide Relating to COVID-19: This document from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs includes the agency’s guidance on a variety of COVID-19 issues affecting affordable housing. It is subject to revision, so check with TDHCA for updates.

NAA COVID-19 related policy concerns. (information page, links)

NAA members may email questions to cv19questions@naahq.org. These questions will help the association understand member issues and prepare guidance. Check NAA’s coronavirus resource page regularly for updates. NAA is expected to initiate weekly update calls soon.

TAA has also created a special email for members who have questions about handling COVID-19 issues in Texas: COVID-19@taa.org

Fort Bend County rental assistance program; property owner enrollment information

State actions/orders

Reopening businesses

On June 26 Gov. Greg Abbott reinstated some previously eased restrictions for certain businesses in response to reports of rising coronavirus infections in the state.

The governor’s new Executive Order shut down bars and commercial rafting and tubing services that day, reduced restaurant capacity back to 50 percent of occupancy effective June 29, and also reduced occupancy for some other businesses and facilities, like swimming pools, to 50 percent.

On May 5, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a new executive order (EO-GA-21) as part of the plan to reopen the state’s economy. While the order covers many areas, provisions regarding pools and gyms may be of particular interest to rental housing providers. Additional guidance on restrictions for these and other business operations can be found on the Open Texas website; also see checklists for different businesses and services and the Governor’s Report to Open Texas for more details. While these facilities may reopen in line with the Executive Order and guidance, it is still at the business owner’s discretion to decide whether or not to do so.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced his initial plans to reopen Texas businesses on April 27  as part of a phased-in approach; phase 1 began May 1. Social distancing measures are still required, which may limit capacity during the phase-in process. Expanded capacities planned for phase 2 are dependent on continued control of COVID-19 case incidence. Read the Governor’s Report to Open Texas.

See also Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s “Texans Back to Work Task Force Report.” (May 6, 2020)

Also see the section on State Executive Orders.

Guidelines for reopening pools, spas, hot tubs and water playgrounds

The Texas Department of State Health Services shared guidelines from the CDC and the Council for Model Aquatic Health Code for Operating and Managing Public Pools, Spas, Hot tubs, and Water Playgrounds during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Guidelines may be modified over time as the CDC learns more about the coronavirus and COVID-19. This guidance is for consideration if the authority having jurisdiction has determined public aquatic venues can open.

For real estate agents and brokers; appraisal license holders
(Texas Real Estate Commission; Texas Appraiser Licensing & Certification Board)

The Texas Real Estate Commission has guidance for licensed real estate brokers and agents in Texas.

Anyone with a license expiration date of March 31, April 30, May 31 or June 30 (2020) have been granted an extension through July 31, 2020. License holders are encouraged to submit all required documentation and complete coursework to the extent possible and as soon as practicable, as this will assist the agency in the timely review and processing of renewals. License-holder who have already completed renewal requirements can renew active at any time prior to July 31, 2020. The quickest and most efficient way to renew licenses is by using the agency’s online services portal.

Note that TREC and Peason VUE exam centers are reopening slowly and following social distancing guidelines, which may limit capacity. Learn more. 

For affordable housing and tax-credit providers

The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) has posted guidance related to COVID-19 for multifamily programs on this page of the Department’s website https://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/pmcomp/manuals-rules-htc.htm

This document titled “Multifamily Compliance Guide” will be updated as guidance is received from Federal agencies. Please periodically check back for updates. If you have any questions, please contact TDHCA Director of Compliance Patricia Murphy at patricia.murphy@tdhca.state.tx.us or by phone at (512) 475-3140.

Texas Affiliation of Affordable Housing Providers resource page

Resources for rental housing professionals

National Apartment Association statement and position on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

National Apartment Association Guidance for Dealing with the Coronavirus (resource page)

Coronavirus tips for rental housing professionals from HAA General Counsel Howard Bookstaff

NAAEI/IREM Coronavirus Outbreak: What Real Estate Managers Need to Know (webinar recording)

NAAEI/IREM Supplemental FAQ (follow up from webinar)

National Multifamily Housing Council Coronavirus Resources for Apartment Firms

National Multifamily Housing Council Coronavirus Preparedness for Apartment Firms

Institute of Real Estate Management Pandemic Guide for Real Estate Managers

Building and Office Managers International What You Need to Know: Novel Coronavirus

Occupational and Safety Health Administration Fact Sheet: Protecting Workers during a Pandemic

Eviction Petition (with required statement regarding whether the property is covered by the CARES Act; for temporary use in Texas)

TAA has prepared sample rules properties may use when reopening amenities, to explain policies and procedures put in place as a result of efforts to minimize the spread of coronavirus. Remember, the TAA Lease allows properties to make reasonable changes in rules during the lease term, if they are distributed to all residents, apply consistently to all residents and do not change dollar amounts on page 1 or 2. The new sample rules are intended to be customized and incorporated into your existing policies.

Available now: A sample Virus Warning and Waiver Addendum.This new form is a tool properties may use with residents signing a new lease. Residents are asked to acknowledge and assume risks associated with exposure to COVID-19 and other similar viruses and to release the property from liability related to those risks. This sample form is available now on the TAA website and TAA REDBOOK Online, and will be available to TAA Click & Lease users June 17.

“Essential Employee” sample letters: NOTE: If adapting these letters to other areas of the state, you must adjust to reflect the details of the local jurisdiction’s shelter in place order.

  • Austin: This sample letter was prepared by Corey Rogers, Warren Law Firm, to provide documentation to rental housing workers in Austin who are complying with Austin’s stay home/work safe order.
  • Dallas: This sample letter was prepared by Jennifer Owen with Higier, Allen & Lautin, PC, to provide documentation to rental housing workers in Dallas who are complying with Dallas’ stay home order.
  • San Antonio: This sample letter was prepared by David Fritsche with Law Offices of R. David Fritsche, to provide documentation to rental housing workers in San Antonio who are complying with San Antonio’s stay home/work safe order.

Apartment Employee Work Letter for Harris and Fort Bend Counties  (prepared Howard Bookstaff, Hoover Slovacek LLC)

Sample payment plan, late fee waiver forms: The Texas Apartment Association encourages members to work with residents directly affected by the coronavirus, and to waive late fees. These new forms are available to assist you, and give you an option to waive late fees for some period of time, and/or to set up an agreed-to payment plan for rent payments, similar to the Eviction Holdoff Agreement. Versions are available in English and Spanish. The Spanish versions are to assist in communication with residents; the English versions should be signed and executed.

The English versions are also available in TAA REDBOOK Online in both Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word versions, and are available to TAA Click & Lease users. Spanish versions have been posted in the REDBOOK Online and will be available through Click & Lease soon.

Find these member resources. (You will need to login as a member to access these forms.)

Renter Resources from the Texas Apartment Association (English) and (Spanish): These handouts include FAQs, tips and lists of local resources available in the larger metro areas. Members and local associations may wish to add additional information about resources in their areas. Thanks to the San Antonio, Houston, Austin, and Dallas apartment associations for their assistance in contributing to this piece.

Mortgage forbearance for rental properties

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) are allowing multifamily loan borrowers with existing forbearance agreements to extend the total forbearance period for up six months total. The forbearance extension is available for property owners of qualified properties with an Enterprise-backed multifamily mortgage experiencing a financial hardship due to the coronavirus national emergency.

As before, property owners are prohibited from evicting residents in covered properties due to nonpayment of rent during the forbearance period. Unlike borrowers, residents are not required to show COVID-19 related financial hardship.

The FHFA’s announcement also adds new owner and renter protections that apply during the repayment period. Once forbearance concludes, owners of properties with forbearance agreement extensions may qualify for up to 24 months to repay missed payments. Forbearance extensions, repayment schedule modifications and new forbearance agreements result in the following requirements during the repayment period:

  • Residents must be given at least a 30-day notice to vacate;
  • Borrowers must suspend late fees or penalties for nonpayment of rent; and
  • Borrowers must allow residents the flexibility to repay outstanding balances over time and not in a lump sum.

More details can be found on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s websites. To learn more about qualification standards and the new renter protection requirements, contact your lender or mortgage servicer.

This announcement is specific to multifamily properties and separate from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and FHFA’s announcements to extend their single-family only moratoria until August 31, 2020. These apply to foreclosures and evictions in single-family homeowners, in homes with a federally-backed mortgage through these agencies.

Reopening businesses

What does the governor’s mask order mean for properties?
Property owners and managers are reminded that Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order issued July 2 requires masks to be worn in public. The order is intended to help limit spread of COVID-19 at a time when the state is experiencing a surge in cases. It’s clear this order would apply to property leasing offices.

Owners may want to consult legal counsel regarding applicability of the Order and best practices for compliance. There are some limited exceptions that apply to individuals, and an exception for counties with less than 20 active COVID-19 cases IF the county judge has requested an exemption. See the counties that may be exempt. Review the order for more details and information about exceptions.

For multifamily rental property owners, there are several aspects of the order to keep in mind:

  • The order is not specific regarding what is covered as inside a “commercial entity or other building or space open to the public.” For example, while the order clearly affects leasing offices, it is not explicit whether it would be applicable in common areas not open to the general public, such as an interior hallway between units or amenities.
  • Regardless of whether the order is strictly applicable to all common area spaces at multifamily properties, given the seriousness of the pandemic and the intent to promote public health, properties may want, after consultation with legal counsel, to consider practices to help comply with the order’s intent, including educating staff and residents.
  • Although the order exempts wearing a face mask in a pool, several factors may come into play when considering masks within the immediate pool area, including the layout of furniture, the possibility of maintaining social distancing and how other amenities are arranged. Remember—pools are still limited to 50% capacity.
  • There is no mandate or duty for property owners/managers to be engaged in any type of enforcement activities and no requirements for posting signs or other notices.  Any enforcement of the order would be through local law enforcement. The order states that first violations are subject to a warning and then violators may be fined $250 for subsequent violations.

Updated guidance for swimming pools, gyms, theaters and businesses

The state’s Open Texas plan guidance checklists have been updated as of July 3 to reflect the governor’s recent order. See all available checklists. See also updated guidance for businesses.

On June 26 Gov. Greg Abbott reinstated some previously eased restrictions for certain businesses in response to reports of rising coronavirus infections in the state.

The governor’s June 26 Executive Order shut down bars and commercial rafting and tubing services that day, reduced restaurant capacity back to 50 percent of occupancy effective June 29, and also reduced occupancy for some other businesses and facilities, like swimming pools, to 50 percent.

On May 5, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a new executive order (EO-GA-21) as part of the plan to reopen the state’s economy. While the order covers many areas, provisions regarding pools and gyms may be of particular interest to rental housing providers. Additional guidance on restrictions for these and other business operations can be found on the Open Texas website; also see checklists for different businesses and services and the Governor’s Report to Open Texas for more details. While these facilities may reopen in line with the Executive Order and guidance, it is still at the business owner’s discretion to decide whether or not to do so.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced his initial plans to reopen Texas businesses on April 27  as part of a phased-in approach; phase 1 began May 1. Social distancing measures are still required, which may limit capacity during the phase-in process. Expanded capacities planned for phase 2 are dependent on continued control of COVID-19 case incidence. Read the Governor’s Report to Open Texas.

See also Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s “Texans Back to Work Task Force Report.” (May 6, 2020)

Texas business owners are expected to be eligible for disaster injury loans from the Small Business Administration as a result of the COVID-19/coronavirus declaration of a state emergency. Apply now.

Small business programs at the governor’s office may also offer assistance. This page also includes links to federal resources.

Information and links from the National Federation of Independent Business for Texas small business owners.

Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act: Information from the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act

US Chamber Coronavirus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated $350 billion to help small businesses keep workers employed amid the pandemic and economic downturn. Known as the Paycheck Protection Program, the initiative provides 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses.

Importantly, these loans may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payrolls afterward.

The administration soon will release more details including the list of lenders offering loans under the program. In the meantime, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has issued this guide to help small businesses and self-employed individuals prepare to file for a loan.

Paycheck protection program (for small businesses) FAQs: The Paycheck Protection Program, part of the new CARES stimulus package, is a federal loan program aimed at helping small businesses who have been severely impacted by COVID-19. The main objective of this loan is to help these businesses retain their workforce and assist with other operational expenses. (Information Courtesy of Live Oak Bank)

Coronavirus small business solutions: The Federal Government has dedicated over $350 billion in relief for small businesses, available through several loan programs. We have laid out each option so that you can carefully consider which loan makes the most sense for your business.

Eligibility for one may be impacted if you receive the other, but you can either choose the Paycheck Projection Program loan or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan.  (Information Courtesy of Live Oak Bank)

Department of Labor Information/Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division recently released guidance regarding paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The guidance addresses critical questions such as:

  • How does an employer count its number of employees to determine coverage?
  • How can small businesses obtain an exemption?
  • How does an employer count hours for part-time employees?
  • How does an employer calculate wages employees are entitled to under the FFCRA?

The initial WHD guidance is available in three-parts:

Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

If you owe sales taxes:

The Texas Comptroller’s office is offering assistance in the form of short-term payment agreements and, in most instances, waivers of penalties and interest.

Contact the Comptroller’s Enforcement Hotline at 800-252-8880 to learn about your options for remaining in compliance and avoiding interest and late fees on taxes due.

See the agency’s COVID-19 emergency response webpage for access to online tools, tutorials and other resources for tax services, and to establish 24/7 online account access with Webfile.

A number of local communities have rental assistance programs that may be helpful. Contact your local government for more information about availability and eligibility. Many programs provide the assistance to the property owner, on behalf of eligible residents. Property owners may be required to enroll or submit applications to participate.

Some of these programs may have exhausted initial resources, and this is not a comprehensive list.
Check with local programs frequently though, as additional funding sources may become available.

Austin: http://austintexas.gov/rent

Dallas: (city: https://dallascityhall.com/Pages/Coronavirus-Resources.aspx); Dallas County: https://www.dallascounty.org/departments/dchhs/ehap-cares.php);

El Paso: eprenthelp.org

Houston: https://www.houstonrentassistance.org/

San Antonio: (city: https://www.sanantonio.gov/NHSD/Programs/FairHousing#151261503-default-mortgage-counseling) (Bexar County: http://www.habctx.org/TRAM)

The novel coronavirus is a new respiratory virus. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath and may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. A vaccine is not available.

Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these suggestions for basic protective measures:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue away
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

What to do if someone in your home tests positive for coronavirus or has COVID-19

×