With expiration dates for prior orders and ordinances protecting Austin renters from evictions amid the coronavirus pandemic set for the year’s end, local elected leaders have signaled that they will extend the protections through at least early March.

City Council voted unanimously to extend its 60-day grace period ordinance during its regular meeting Dec. 10. The ordinance, which has been in effect since March 26, adds a step before landlords can issue tenants a notice to vacate, which is a prerequisite to filing an eviction with the courts. That extra step offers a grace period and requires landlords to first provide a “notice of proposed eviction” to tenants. From the day the notice is issued, tenants then have 60 days to pay back the missed rent that triggered the proposed eviction.

Though the order was initially set to expire Dec. 31, City Council has extended it through March 5, 2021, which will protect tenants until the 61st day after March 5: May 5, 2021.

District 4 Council Member Greg Casar said he expects the rules to receive another extension in the spring. He told Community Impact Newspaper that until the federal and state government provide adequate aid, extending eviction protections is “the only responsible thing for local governments to do.”

The timeline for the extension, Casar said, lines up with what he has heard from Mayor Steve Adler regarding an extension of his mayoral orders, which ban landlords from issuing notices to vacate to tenants for nonpayment of rent. The current mayoral order expires Dec. 31. Adler said Dec. 10 that he intends to extend the deadline but did not publicly offer a timeline.

Last month, Adler told Community Impact Newspaper he was considering an amendment to his order that would give the green light for notices to vacate but would shut down the eviction process immediately thereafter. Adler said local data on the scale of backlogged evictions and rent debt has been extremely difficult to collect, and permitting cases to reach the court, but not to be heard, could allow the community to begin collecting that data.

Adler did not respond to questions from Community Impact Newspaper on the status of the order or the possibility of amendments.

Travis County’s five justices of the peace have not been hearing cases on evictions for nonpayment of rent during the pandemic, and Precinct 5 Judge Nick Chu said the judges would not hear such cases at least until Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has lifted his disaster declaration related to the coronavirus. Chu said he expects this judicial policy to last until at least February and then to be extended as prescribed by the Texas Supreme Court.