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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that there is likely to be widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) is now characterizing COVID-19 as a pandemic. That term does not change the assessment of the severity of the disease, but rather its spread 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 April 5, 2020

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

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.

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

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

For real estate agents and brokers

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

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.

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

“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.

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.

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.

This is an evolving situation, so we suggest you check with courts in your area. We will update this information as it becomes available.

On March 19, the Supreme Court of Texas Court issued an emergency order immediately suspending almost all residential evictions through April 19, 2020. There is a limited exception for an eviction based on a person posing an imminent threat of physical harm to another resident or the rental property’s staff, or for criminal activity. The order applies statewide. Courts may accept new filings, but citation will not be served until after April 19, and the time periods associated with the filings are suspended. Similarly, courts may issues writs of possession, but writs will not be executed until after April 26.

TAA worked with the governor’s office, the Supreme Court of Texas and Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, the state’s largest legal aid organization, to reach a consensus on eviction court procedures that would be uniform and fair to all parties.

Read our full statement and some FAQs about the Court’s order.

The Office of Court Administration has released updated guidance on court procedures for the coronavirus. As previously reported, you can check the Office of Court Administration’s website anytime for information on court closures or delays reported to the OCA. Please note that the OCA link currently features full court closures and may not include partial closures announced by local courts. Texas Lawyer is compiling a list of those closures, which is available here.

City and county court-related actions prior to the Supreme Court’s March 19 emergency order:

  • Housing Authority of the City of Austin—Suspended evictions for non-criminal activity only, effective March 18, 2020 until further notice.
  • Bexar County—Bexar County suspended jury duty for one month.
  • Collin County—Collin County Justice of the Peace courts have canceled all jury trials and all non-essential matters until April 1. (See Collin County JP courts’ joint statement.)
  • Dallas County—Dallas County is cancelling all jury trials for criminal, civil and Justice of the Peace (J.P.) Courts until May 8, 2020. Learn more.
  • Denton County—Denton County courts are following temporary guidelines through April 1. Learn more.
  • El Paso City Council—Approved an ordinance that, among other things, prohibits evictions for nonpayment of rent during the duration of the state’s declaration of emergency. Learn more.
  • Harris County—Jury service is suspended from Friday, March 13 through March 20. Effective March 11, county courts at law will not be calling jury trials. Each court will exercise its discretion on a case-by-case basis regarding the calling of bench trials. Learn more.
  • Lubbock County—Lubbock County district courts and county courts at law have cancelled child support cases through March 31 and jury trials through April 3. Learn more.
  • Tarrant County—Effective March 17, 2020, Effective March 17, 2020, all scheduled court proceedings (including motion hearings and trials)
    except for those deemed “essential court proceedings”, such as Emergency Mental Detention Warrants, Writs of Reentry, Writs of Retrieval, and certain Repair and Remedy cases, are suspended until further notice. As soon as new directives are received, the Justice Court having jurisdiction will contact litigants to notify them of their new court date. The suspension of court proceedings affects the following civil cases: Evictions, Small Claims and
    Debt Claims. In Eviction cases, no writs of possession will be issued by the Court until the Court receives a new directive. Learn more.
  • Travis County—Travis County Justice Courts have suspended all non-essential trials and hearings until April 1, 2020. (This includes canceling evictions.) See the Travis County JP court standing order. Additionally, Writs of Possession will not issue for 60 days from today, meaning even if trials are resumed April 1, 2020, owners will have to wait until May 12, 2020 to have them executed.
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