Houston to consider grace period through March 31 for tenants behind on rent

man writing check
Houston City Council will consider grace period through March 31 for tenants behind on rent. (Courtesy Pexel)

Houston City Council will consider grace period through March 31 for tenants behind on rent. (Courtesy Pexel)

Houston tenants behind on rent payments may have until the end of March to resolve the issue without facing eviction.

Amid the continued coronavirus-related economic downturn, City Council is preparing to vote on a grace period ordinance Feb. 17 that would extend the amount of time renters have to resolve payment issues before a landlord can pursue an eviction. The ordinance, however, would only apply through March 31, Mayor Sylvester Turner told council members Feb. 10.

“Mayor Turner’s call for a grace period on evictions today will allow working families who are being hardest hit by this pandemic to breathe a momentary sigh of relief,” said Elsa Caballero, president of the Service Employees International Union Texas, in a news release. “Many of the families and individuals facing evictions are Black, brown and Asian-American and Pacific Islander essential workers who are facing hardship at no fault of their own and are waiting for our federal government to provide financial relief to weather this storm.”

In Texas, tenants have three days to resolve a missed payment before landlords can file an eviction. This begins the process of scheduling a court date and if granted by a justice of the peace, county constables forcing a renter to vacate.

Turner said the city is pursuing the grace period ordinance to allow local officials time to coordinate the recently approved $159 million rent relief program distributed by Harris County and the city of Houston. Officials are also working through the details of a $1 billion rent statewide relief program announced by Gov. Greg Abbott on Feb. 9.

“I do not think people ought to be evicted while these dollars are coming in this time period because the dollars are there,” he said.

Applications for the Houston and Harris County rent-relief fund will begin for landlords Feb. 18 and for tenants Feb. 25.

A shifting view

The proposed ordinance comes months after it was first pushed for by housing advocates and formally proposed by the Houston-Harris County housing stability task force. The task force, which was a volunteer board of local housing experts, advocates and real estate industry leaders, proposed an indefinite 30-day grace period ordinance in July. At that time, a statewide moratorium on evictions was days away from expiring.

Instead, Turner pulled the city of Houston’s participation from the task force and stated his opposition to the proposed ordinance. He said repeatedly that it would only put renters in deeper debt and that he preferred to focus the city’s efforts on securing and distributing rent relief funding.

"If you simply impose any sort of grace period, it does not remove the financial liability," Turner told council members Aug. 5. "I've taken a look at other places like New York. ... They acknowledge, when their grace period comes to an end, they are facing a tsunami of a situation where the financial obligation has not been eliminated."

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a nationwide eviction moratorium; however, data shows that thousands of evictions have continued to proceed in Harris County since it took effect Sept 4. The order expires March 31.

The CDC order, often referred to as a moratorium, does not provide blanket protection for all residents facing eviction. Instead, it gives tenants the option to file a piece of paperwork stating that they are facing eviction because of coronavirus-related financial strain and have exhausted all other possible efforts to pay rent. When presented to a justice of the peace, the paperwork is intended to prevent, or at least delay, an eviction from being enforced.

Since Sept. 4 however, 16% of evictions cases heard in Harris County have been delayed or dismissed through use of the CDC order, data analytics firm January Advisors found. Some justices of the peace delayed or dismissed up to 25% of evictions, while others delayed or dismissed just 5% of cases.

“It seems like there’s something that the judge is doing that can affect the outcome of a CDC declaration. ... It could be as simple as asking the tenant if they have heard of it,” January Advisors analyst Jeff Reichman said. “But 16% overall is probably low ... when some judges are at 25% and others are at 5%, that’s a pretty big variation.”
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


Pfizer vaccines could become available to kids 12 and up as soon as next week. (Courtesy Adobe Stock/Graphic by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)
FDA expands Pfizer vaccine authorization to children ages 12 to 15 years old

This is the first time people under the age of 16 have been granted access to a coronavirus vaccine.

The deadline is May 17 for residents to protest their appraised property values set by the Harris County Appraisal District earlier this year, and officials are encouraging protesters to take online options into account. (Courtesy Pexels)
Harris County residents have until May 17 to protest property values

High demand for residential properties along with a shrinking inventory of homes translated into a roughly 8%-10% increase in residential values on average across the county this year

Brandon Nguyen owner of D&Q The Beer Station on Richmond Avenue, can guide overwhelmed newbies and beer veterans alike on the selections at his one-stop shop. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)
Craft Beer Guide: 14 places to celebrate American Craft Beer Week in Houston

Craft beer week runs from May 10-15, and our guide fills you in on the local breweries in Houston, including which ones are dog friendly, which ones have in-house kitchens and which ones have outdoor seating.

ExxonMobil moved employees from its Springwoods Village campus to a Hughes Landing to cure a default on a Montgomery County tax abatement. (Courtesy ExxonMobil)
ExxonMobil resolves tax abatement default; Home Depot distribution center taking over superfund site; and more top Houston-area news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Houston area.

The University of St. Thomas is a private Catholic college in Houston. It also has a microcampus in downtown Conroe. (Emma Whalen/Community Impact Newspaper)
University of St. Thomas offering free tuition to first 500 students who apply

The online degrees are in the following fields: cybersecurity, network technology, electronic technology, general business, and alcohol and drug dependency counseling.

houston firefighters rally
Appeals court rules in favor Houston firefighters in collective bargaining case

The 14th Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the fire union in a case that originated when the city and the union failed to reach an agreement on a labor contract in 2017.

The Texas Department of State Health Services projects a significant shortage of nurses by 2032. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Q&A: Why Texas faces a growing nursing shortage and what can be done to address it

In 2018, the state health department estimated about 11% of the demand for nurses was not able to be met, and that number is expected to rise to 16.3% by 2032.

Rumi's Place will open on Post Oak Boulevard in fall 2022, specializing in Persian food with a contemporary twist. (Courtesy Zadok family)
Persian restaurant Rumi's Place announced for Post Oak mixed-use development in Uptown

The eatery will occupy the last available restaurant space at the newly opened Post Oak Place, alongside Uchiko.

I-69 Southwest Freeway at I-610 West Loop will be closed May 7 at 9 p.m. until May 10 at 5 a.m. (Courtesy Texas Department of Transportation)
TxDOT: I-69 Southwest Freeway at I-610 West Loop closed through weekend

From May 7 at 9 p.m. until May 10 at 5 a.m., the lanes will be closed.

Legacy Community Health is bringing COVID-19 vaccines to historically underserved communities across Beaumont and Houston. (Courtesy Pexels)
Legacy Community Health vaccine rollout targets underserved communities in Houston, Beaumont

The health network is partnering with other entities, including Beaumont Independent School District.