The orders prohibit landlords from issuing tenants notices to vacate for nonpayment of rent. The notice to vacate is a prerequisite to the eviction process. The protection only extends to tenants whose rent is $2,475 per month or less. Landlords can still file notices to vacate if the tenant presents an imminent threat of physical harm, property damage or criminal activity, as well as if the dwelling becomes uninhabitable through an “insured casualty loss” such as a fire or natural disaster.
“As we cautiously enter the holiday season, Travis County Judge Andy Brown and I are extending eviction protections in the interest of public health, while also further pursuing changes to better address the impact on landlords,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a press release.
The protection against notices to vacate have been in place since March 26 and were set to expire, though expected to get an extension beyond, Dec. 31. The orders only began requiring the $2,475 monthly rent payment threshold since Sept. 30.
The protections are just one of three protections against evictions for tenants who are behind on rent. On Dec. 10, City Council unanimously approved an extension of its 60-day grace period ordinance to March 5, which requires landlords to first give nonpaying tenants a notice of proposed eviction. From the day of the notice, tenants have 60 days to pay back the missed rent that triggered the proposed eviction before a landlord can issue a notice to vacate.
Travis County’s justice of the peace have also imposed a moratorium on hearing nonpayment of rent eviction cases until at least Feb. 1. Precinct 5 Judge Nick Chu said he expects the moratorium to get extended and remain in place at least until Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifts his statewide coronavirus disaster declaration.
“City, county, and court officials have worked very hard in trying to create a comprehensive strategy so that this public health crisis isn’t exacerbated by a housing crisis,” Chu said in a statement.
Data shows the eviction protections in Austin and Travis County through the pandemic have helped curb the number of evictions, which many say has helped curb a spike in homelessness and an increase in virus spread. According to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, which has tracked evictions in major cities across the country during the pandemic, Austin has seen 725 eviction filings in court, compared to 18,299 in Houston and 9,266 in Fort Worth.