With a U-Haul nearly loaded with all of her belongings, Alexys Hatcher had no idea what comes next.
"I found out yesterday when I came home. I had a red notice on my door saying I had 24 hours to vacate, myself and my 5-year-old mind you,” said Hatcher.
Hatcher said her financial problems amid the pandemic started when her retail job was deemed non-essential. Then, when it was time to get back to work, she had a 5-year-old doing schoolwork from home that needed supervision.
It was a lot to juggle. And eventually, she fell behind on the rent at her Arlington apartment.
Court documents show Hatcher’s landlord first filed a petition for her eviction in December.
But in March, she filed a CDC declaration required to qualify for the federal eviction moratorium she thought would be her safety net.
She’d also applied for rent assistance.
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Still, this week a judge allowed for the eviction to move forward.
It’s a decision that came just days after the Texas Justice Court Training Center released new guidance for justice of the peace courts:
“Nothing in the text of the [federal] moratorium itself specifically directs or forbids courts to take action.”
"It was devastating. It was literally devastating because I did everything the judge told me to do. I followed all of her instructions. I followed the guidelines and I'm still not protected,” said Hatcher.
Hatcher turned to Dallas attorney Mark Melton, partner at Holland and Knight, who’s worked with a team of 250 volunteer lawyers to provide pro bono assistance to more than 6,000 tenants facing eviction throughout the pandemic.
“This is the unfortunate reality for a lot of people. There is nothing she can do. She has now been evicted. She has a small child, and we’re still trying to figure out where she’s going to go and what she’s going to do. She has no legal recourse at this point,” said Melton.
As far as he knows, Hatcher’s eviction is the first to be executed since the new guidance was released.
He worries thousands, if not tens of thousands, could face a similar fate.
Melton says many of them have applied for and are waiting to find out whether they’ll receive help through the state’s billion-dollar rent relief program, which has been slow to roll out.
“That’s not only unjust. It’s not right,” said Melton.
He believes patience by all involved could help both tenants and landlords.
As some landlords and judges continue to abide by the federal moratorium, Melton’s encouraging those facing eviction to still fill out a CDC declaration and continue applying for rent assistance.
Hatcher's apartment complex did not respond to NBC5's request for a response.
Landlords who do move forward with eviction while the CDC's moratorium remains in place could face federal penalties.
Landlords and renters can apply for the Texas Rent Relief program here.