Austin renters impacted by the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus received reinforced protections May 7 after City Council extended missed rent protections through Aug. 24.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler also signaled he would extend his own unilateral order to prohibit evictions through July 25.

City Council voted to extend protections it passed back in March, which gave renters throughout the city a 60-day grace period to pay back missed rent before a landlord could begin eviction proceedings.

For tenants who missed rent, the law requires landlords to notify them of a proposal to evict. The tenant then has 60 days, beginning the day after they receive the proposal to evict, to pay that month’s missed rent before a landlord can begin eviction proceedings. For example, if a renter missed rent April 1 and were given a proposal to evict April 6, they would have until June 6 to pay rent before the landlord could legally begin an eviction proceeding.

This 60-day protection is effective through Aug. 24. This means if a renter who is up to date on rent were to miss rent Aug. 1 and receive a proposal to evict Aug. 4, they would have until Oct. 4 to pay rent before eviction proceedings could begin.

On March 26, the same day City Council passed its initial 60-day grace period protection, Adler signed an executive order prohibiting all evictions—unless the tenant is involved with criminal activity or threatens physical harm—through May 8.

Mayor Adler said May 7 that he would extend this order through July 25, which means renters who have not paid April or May rent are safe from evictions until at least July 25. He said City Council is extending its own order because it wants to help renters to the full extent allowed by law.

Neither of the orders erase rent payments. Rather, they each give renters an extended period of time to pay overdue rent.

District 4 City Council Member Greg Casar told Community Impact Newspaper that from where he sits now, he does not expect the coronavirus to let up by the time the orders expire; he expects to extend them again when their times are up. He said the Aug. 24 expiration date aligns with the forbearance timeline in the Congress’s CARES Act for federally-backed mortgages.

Initially, the extension for the 60-day payback rule was to be effective indefinitely—until the local disaster caused by the coronavirus ended.

Emily Blair, executive vice president with the Austin Apartments Association, called the indefinite timeline “problematic” and asked council to extend it only through June 8. She also urged City Council to focus on the burden that unpaid rent places on housing providers.

Jeni Williams, interim director of public affairs with the Austin Board of Realtors, said one in four Austin renters lives in a single-family home. She said she was worried about those landlords not even receiving partial payments from tenants and about the catastrophic impact large amounts of back-rent would have on the city’s housing market.

District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan attempted to float an amendment into the ordinance requiring tenants to communicate their hardship with their landlords. However, the amendment, supported by Williams and the Austin Board of Realtors, was rejected; City Council members said it adds another step for the tenant, which is counter to the purpose of the law—to ease burdens on tenants.

Read our guide for renters from April.