The pandemic has left many people jobless and worried about paying rent. That concern will grow even more on Wednesday when the moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent ends in Dallas County. But some people are getting more time and help to keep a roof over their heads.
Merry Collins said it’s time for a fresh start. Life hasn’t been easy these days.
“I live paycheck to paycheck. So, when there’s no paycheck coming in it hurts really hard,” she said.
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She’s leaving Dallas and heading to San Antonio where family helped her secure a place to live. It’s a move she’s making after months of back and forth with her landlord, to whom to she still owes money.
“I lost my job during the pandemic and it took a while to get unemployment and get that income coming in,” said Collins. “And during that time, I got behind on my rent.”
She went from $200 behind in April to more than $4,000 behind as of August.
On Wednesday, a moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent will end, and eviction hearings in Dallas County will start again. The federal and state moratoriums have already been lifted. Still, Justice of the Peace Judge Al Circone said not as many cases have come across his desk compared to this time last year.
“We have far fewer cases at this time of year than we had last year at this time of year. Where I might see on an average 10 cases a day I’m looking at six or seven," he said. “It’s a clear indication of evidence that landlords are working with tenants as much as they can.”
While the county moratorium ends, there’s still reprieve for people living in the city of Dallas. A COVID-19 eviction ordinance remains in effect for as long as there is a statewide or citywide declaration of disaster.
“The importance is to, one, maintain people in their homes. And two, ensure that landlords can maintain their properties,” said Priscylla Bento, policy manager with Dallas’ Office of Fair Housing and Human Rights.
The city ordinance gives tenants a total of 60 days to prove hardship due to COVID-19 and come up with the money. A landlord must issue a notice of possible eviction to which a tenant has 21 days to reply with documentation that they’ve been financially impacted by the pandemic.
Once the 21 days are up and documentation has been provided, the tenant then has an additional 39 days to come up with a plan. Bento said the policy is meant to be helpful for both parties.
“Within those days the tenant has the opportunity to enter into a repayment plan, pay back the delinquent rent, enter into housing assistance,” she said. “We want to make sure that people understand their rights.”
As Collins’ time in Dallas ends, she’s hopeful.
“It’s like a day to day just have faith that it’s going to get better,” she said.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.