When the Centers for Disease Control’s temporary residential eviction ban went into effect on September 4, those who work with renters worried some would fall through the cracks.
“One of our biggest concerns, when this order came down, is getting the word out to tenants that they have this option,” said Maryann D’Aniello an attorney with Legal Aid of Northwest Texas.
“Having a copy of the declaration with the citation and the pleading is key,” said D’Aniello. “It provides the tenant with documentation they need.”
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D’Aniello explained another key takeaway from the order includes an affirmation of a judge’s authority to ask a renter if they’re aware of the eviction moratorium.
Landlords must also explain if they’ve received a signed declaration from a tenant when they file an eviction lawsuit, said D’Aniello.
The CDC’s eviction moratorium applies to people who can show that they can’t pay rent because of COVID-19 income loss or out-of-pocket medical bills.
Renters must declare they are at risk of homelessness or moving in with friends or family in cramped living situations and renters can’t make more than $99,000 in 2020 or twice that if filing a joint tax return.
Renters must be prepared to demonstrate they’ve made best efforts to obtain other rent or housing assistance and that they’re trying to make at least partial rent payments.
The Texas Supreme Court’s order also allows landlords to dispute a renter’s declaration.
“Either you make too much money, either you haven’t made the efforts to seek out government assistance for housing subsidies or you haven’t been making any payments or any attempts to make payments. The landlord can challenge your declaration,” said Jack Fan, a lawyer volunteering with Dallas Evictions 2020.
For renters who meet the CDC requirements, Fan said renters should be aware the signed declaration form can stop an eviction at any point in the process.
“You can use the CDC declaration to stop an eviction proceeding when you get the notice to vacate. If a landlord moves ahead and files an eviction proceeding, you can still use the CDC declaration to tell the judge you are qualified and that you are protected,” said Fan.
“Even if the constable shows up to your front door and is about to kick you out, if you hand them a copy of the CDC declaration, they are supposed to stop,” added Fan.
The CDC eviction moratorium does not provide any rental assistance to renters or landlords. The moratorium expires at the end of the year. All back rent and late fees will be due then.
To contact Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, call the helpline at 888-529-5277
A group of lawyers are offering free legal advice at Dallas Evictions 2020.