FAQ: Paying bills in the time of coronavirus

Here is what to know about rent, mortgages and utility bills during the coronavirus. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Here is what to know about rent, mortgages and utility bills during the coronavirus. (Courtesy Fotolia)

Here is what to know about rent, mortgages and utility bills during the coronavirus. (Courtesy Fotolia)

With many residents in the Greater Houston area facing rent payment, mortgage payment and utility bill due dates in the coming days, here is what to know about possible ways to get relief and what happens if a bill is not paid.

Do I still have to pay rent?

Rent payments are still going to be due around April 3 throughout the state of Texas. However, the Texas Supreme Court has stopped most evictions from moving forward through April 19, including evictions related to nonpayment of rent.

The Texas Apartment Association, which advocates on behalf of the Texas rental housing industry, warns that residents who do not pay rent can still be issued a notice to vacate, which means the property manager intends to eventually pursue an eviction in court after the Supreme Court order is lifted if rent is not paid.

The association advises residents who cannot make their rent payments to reach out to their property managers immediately to ask about possibly waiving late fees or setting up a payment plan.

Do I still have to pay my mortgage?

Many homeowners who are struggling to make their mortgage payments have opportunities for relief. On March 18, the Trump Administration announced it was halting all foreclosures and suspending all evictions on properties backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the government-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Homeowners with government-backed loans who are affected by the coronavirus are eligible for a mortgage forbearance plan for up to one year that would reduce or suspend mortgage payments, waive late fees and suspend reports to credit bureaus. Fannie Mae is offering relief through its Disaster Response Network, and Freddie Mac is offering relief through its My Home by Freddie Mac program.

For loans that are not backed by the federal government, homeowners will have to get in touch with their mortgage servicers. Some banks, such as Wells Fargo, have also announced they are suspending foreclosures and evictions.

Will my water, electric or Internet service be cut off?

Residents should check directly with their utility providers on how they are handling the coronavirus pandemic, but most major providers have announced plans to suspend disconnections of services, and some are also waiving late fees.

The city of Houston still expects water bills to be paid. However, Mayor Sylvester Turner issued an executive order March 12 to suspend disconnections of water service within the city through April 30, emphasizing the importance of residents having clean water throughout the pandemic. Late payments will still result in late fees.

Residents in unincorporated Harris County pay water bills through utility districts. Each utility district varies in how it is responding to the coronavirus outbreak. For example, officials with Harris County Municipal Utility District 81, which covers parts of west Harris County and Katy, have announced they will not disconnect service until further notice.

Some gas and electric companies are pausing disconnections, and many are directing customers to payment assistance programs. Officials with CenterPoint said they have temporarily suspended natural gas disconnections for nonpayment. Electricity customers who cannot pay are being directed to payment assistance programs or being asked to file a payment extension request.

Reliant is pausing payment-related disconnections to residences and small commercial customers. The company is providing payment extensions, waiving late fees, and offering deferred payment plans and bill assistance through its Reliant CARE program.

As more people rely on the Internet to work and attend classes, AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have all pledged not to disconnect customers or charge them late fees for missed payments. The companies are asking customers to reach out if they think they will have trouble paying a bill and provide information on their situation to avoid late fees or account termination.
By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


Target has built out its new store at 2075 Westheimer Road, Houston. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)
Target to open fourth Inner Loop location and more Houston-area business, community news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

Baylor College of Medicine is seeking volunteers for a COVID-19 study looking to determine the prevalence of the viral disease in the Houston area. (Courtesy Baylor College of Medicine)
Baylor College of Medicine recruiting participants for COVID-19 prevalence study

The study will collect samples from 70,000 individuals nationwide.

Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston region in 2017. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Houston hydrologist explains climate change’s role in intensified flooding, importance of planning for future storms

“We’re looking at more intense and more frequent storms, and so, as a region, we’re going to need to think about that when we’re planning. We need to plan for that worst-case climate change [scenario].”

Airi Ramen is coming soon to the Fairfield Town Center. Another location can be found in New Caney. (Courtesy Facebook)
Airi Ramen coming soon to Fairfield Town Center in Cypress

The eatery will specialize in authentic Japanese food and will also offer a full bar.

Some Harris County residents could be eligible for free workforce training. (Courtesy Lone Star College System)
Harris County partners with Lone Star College to offer free workforce training this fall

Furloughed, unemployed and underemployed Harris County residents could be eligible for one of 17 training programs.

An ongoing charter review in the city of Jersey Village is recommending two changes to the city's charter that would affect how City Council terms are handled when council members step down. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Jersey Village charter review commission proposes tweak to election term rules

An ongoing charter review in the city of Jersey Village is recommending two changes to the city's charter that would affect how City Council terms are handled when council members step down.

(Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Greater Houston region faces glut of industrial, commercial space and multifamily housing

While the Greater Houston area has seen a glut of office space for the last six years, Patrick Jankowski said the industrial buildup has happened more in the past year and a half.

Little Kitchen HTX opened Sept. 1 in Jersey Village. (Courtesy Little Kitchen HTX)
Little Kitchen HTX now open in Jersey Village

The new eatery offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekend brunch, a full coffee bar and cocktails.

Cy-Fair ISD reopened for virtual and in-person classes Sept. 8. (Courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)
Cy-Fair ISD reported 65 positive COVID-19 cases among students, staff Oct. 12-18

Cypress Creek High School had more positive cases than any other campus in the district last week, according to CFISD data.

Harris County continues to report more confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Cy-Fair area. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
424 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Cy-Fair from Oct. 13-19

Here's a snapshot of COVID-19 cases in Cy-Fair from this past week.

Cy-Fair ISD's newest campus, Rowe Middle School, opened in 2020. (Courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)
Cy-Fair ISD designates remote learning days for teacher planning purposes

There will be one remote learning day each month through the end of the school year.