COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in

This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information. Your local city or county may have additional protections for renters.

This page was last updated on July 12, 2020. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.

Its information is taken from these sources:Princeton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect TrackerTexas Supreme Court OrderTexas Supreme Court updates

COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in Texas
Are there any special protections for Texas renters during the COVID-19

The Texas Supreme Court halted evictions through May 18, 2020. After this date, eviction proceedings may start again, unless there are any local moratoriums issued by justices of the peace or the county courts. Writs of possession may be issued starting May 26, 2020.

The Texas Supreme Court also is now requiring landlords who want to file an eviction lawsuit to certify that the property is not covered by the CARES Act's eviction protections. (See more about the CARES Act's US national protections below).

Some renters may be eligible for U.S. national protections through July 25, check here below to see if you qualify.

What do the eviction protections mean for Texas renters?

The protection meant that up through May 18, 2020 in Texas:

  1. Your landlord could still give you a notice to vacate -- unless your local city or county prohibits it.
  2. Your landlord could still file an eviction claim in court against you.
  3. Hearings on eviction were not happening, unless the landlord filed a sworn complaint showing that the actions of the tenant, household members, or guests have threatened or pose an imminent threat of (i) physical harm to the landlord, the landlord's employees, or other tenants, or (ii) criminal activity.
  4. The court could not issue a new order, judgment, or writ of eviction against you.
  5. An existing eviction order could not be enforced against you.

Some Texas renters may qualify for national eviction protections that last through July 2020. Check below to see if you are eligible for these protections.

Do I still have to pay rent during COVID-19 in Texas?

Yes, Texas renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.

Also check with your local city or county government to see if they give renters any additional protections if they are struggling to pay rent during the emergency.

If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:

  • Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. Explain why you cannot pay the rent because of COVID-19 impact. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help here for drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. You can also use this letter-writing tool here.
  • Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
  • Keep proof of COVID-19's impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
  • Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help.
Can my landlord evict me during COVID-19?

During the emergency period through May 18th, no eviction cases moved through the courts, and no law enforcement could remove tenants from their homes, unless the landlord swore that there were threats of physical harm to the landlord, the landlord's employees, or other tenants, or there was criminal activity.

Beginning May 19th, the courts were allowed to hear eviction cases again.

Beginning May 26th, the courts were allowed to post and enforce writs of possession against renters.

To file an eviction lawsuit against you, the landlord must prove that your rental property isn't covered by the US CARES act's eviction protections. (Read more about the US national protections below).

You may be eligible for U.S. national protections through July 25, check here below to see if you qualify.

If you receive a notice to vacate from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.

Can my utilities be shut off during COVID-19?

The Texas Public Utility Commission has ordered that no shutoffs can occur for residential tenants who show proof of unemployment. Some utility companies have voluntarily suspended shutoffs for all customers. Check with your local companies to see if you have protections.

Renters must still pay their utility bills. If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.

Landlords are never allowed to shut off water, gas, or wastewater in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. (In Texas, landlords can cut off electricity if it is submetered or allocated, and the tenant does not pay the tenant's portion within the specified time period.) Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.

Are you eligible for U.S. national protections against eviction?

Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.

Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?

Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.
You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.
You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.

If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)

  • Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
  • Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
  • After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.

For more help on these national protections, reach out for legal and financial help here. Also, use this tool to write a letter to your landlord if you are having issues with rent or eviction.

What if I need repairs to my home during COVID-19?

Can I break my lease during COVID-19?

What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me during COVID-19?

Are eviction cases still proceeding through Texas court?

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