On March 18, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court put a temporary stay on eviction proceedings across the state. That temporary stay expires today, and there are no indictions that it will be extended.
While this stay prevented nearly all evictions during this two month period, it allowed landlords to continue filing eviction cases. This means that cases can accumulate in the system, and when the state moratorium expires, they can proceed.
During this time, we’ve been looking at eviction data pretty closely. For some of our clients, we’ve even been talking to landlords, tenants, and social service providers to understand their concerns right now and in the near term.
Here’s what we’ve learned so far.
There Was Significant Decline in Eviction Filings
Between March 19, 2019 and May 15, 2019, there were 10,027 eviction cases filed in Harris County Justice of the Peace Court.
During the same period in 2020 — which covers the Texas Supreme Court moratorium — there were 1,465 eviction cases filed. This represents an 85% drop in cases filed year over year.
It is too early to understand why the number of cases filed went down, but based on our conversations with landlords, tenants, and housing support providers, we suspect it is due to several reasons:
- Overall slowdown of business activities due to COVID-19
- Financial deals worked out with tenants
- Leniency from property owners, investors, and banks
- Short-term benefits for tenants, such as stimulus payments
But don’t let this 85% drop fool you: 1,465 eviction cases is quite a lot compared to the case volume of similar cities.
And if court volume “goes back to normal” — that is, the number of cases filed looks like it did in previous years — we will see thousands of new eviction cases filed next month.
Houston Landlords Subject to the Federal Moratorium Are Still Filing Eviction Cases
Starting on March 27, 2020, the Federal government enacted a rule to prevent property owners with a federally-backed mortgage loan from filing eviction cases for 120 days. This includes landlords who have loans with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, HUD, and others.
In Houston, there are over 1,000 multifamily properties that have a federally-backed mortgage, meaning that tens of thousands of tenants are subject to different and more renter-friendly rules than the ones enacted by the Texas Supreme Court.
For those tenants, the federal evictions moratorium lasts until late July, and their landlords cannot file an eviction case until it expires.
But we looked at the data. Since March 27, we found that 7.5% of the eviction cases filed for properties in the City of Houston have a federally-backed mortgage. In fact, some were filed as recently as last week.
This shouldn’t happen. Harris County JP Court must implement controls to screen and delay eviction cases from property owners with federally-backed mortgages. Not only will this ensure consistency with Federal regulations, but it will also immediately enforce the housing rights of hundreds of people.
Eviction Cases Filed by Properties With Federally-Backed MortgagesThis table includes cases filed after the federal moratorium was enacted on March 27 through May 17, 2020.
|Case Number||Case File Date||Claim Amount||Case Status||Complex Name|
|202100129634||2020-05-04||1654.0000||Active||BELLFORT VILLAGE APA..|
|202200127476||2020-04-28||464.0000||Active||BELLFORT VILLAGE APA..|
|202200128202||2020-04-30||725.0000||Active||BELLFORT VILLAGE APA..|
|205200128277||2020-05-01||0.0000||Active||Hayden at Enclave|
|201100130417||2020-05-07||515.0000||Active||MAGNOLIA COVE II APA..|
|201100130420||2020-05-07||875.0000||Active||MAGNOLIA COVE II APA..|
|201100130416||2020-05-07||720.0000||Active||REGENCY CROSSING AP..|
|207200117323||2020-03-30||790.0000||Disposed||THE WILCOX APARTMEN..|
|207200117329||2020-03-30||750.0000||Disposed||THE WILCOX APARTMEN..|
|207200117327||2020-03-30||795.0000||Disposed||THE WILCOX APARTMEN..|
|207200117320||2020-03-30||1024.0000||Disposed||THE WILCOX APARTMEN..|
|207200117307||2020-03-30||948.4100||Disposed||THE WILCOX APARTMEN..|
|207200117283||2020-03-30||920.0000||Disposed||THE WILCOX APARTMEN..|
|207200117335||2020-03-30||1069.0000||Disposed||THE WILCOX APARTMEN..|
|207200117340||2020-03-30||790.0000||Disposed||THE WILCOX APARTMEN..|
|207200117266||2020-03-30||795.0000||Disposed||THE WILCOX APARTMEN..|
|207200117304||2020-03-30||790.0000||Disposed||THE WILCOX APARTMEN..|
|207200117286||2020-03-30||920.0000||Disposed||THE WILCOX APARTMEN..|
|207200117297||2020-03-30||1079.0000||Disposed||THE WILCOX APARTMEN..|
|207200117293||2020-03-30||815.0000||Disposed||THE WILCOX APARTMEN..|
|201100123703||2020-04-16||1520.0000||Active||The Gallery Apartments|
|207100117152||2020-03-27||1898.0000||Active||Ashford Santa Fe Apart..|
|205200127573||2020-04-29||1300.0000||Active||Arbors on Westheimer|
|205200127558||2020-04-29||1600.0000||Active||Arbors on Westheimer|
|205200127575||2020-04-29||1015.4100||Active||Arbors on Westheimer|
|201200117424||2020-03-30||905.0000||Active||Woodcreek Of Northwes..|
|201200117433||2020-03-30||483.2300||Active||Woodcreek Of Northwes..|
|201200117341||2020-03-30||500.0000||Active||Woodcreek Of Northwes..|
|205100126042||2020-04-24||0.0000||Disposed||Ashford Westchase Apar..|
|205100120721||2020-04-07||0.0000||Disposed||Ashford Westchase Apar..|
|205100127899||2020-04-30||640.0000||Active||2929 DUNVALE APARTM..|
|205100127560||2020-04-29||740.0000||Active||2929 DUNVALE APARTM..|
|205100126687||2020-04-27||740.0000||Active||2929 DUNVALE APARTM..|
|205100126674||2020-04-27||1059.0000||Active||2929 DUNVALE APARTM..|
|205100116692||2020-03-27||1300.0000||Active||WESTWOOD RIDGE APA..|
|205100116688||2020-03-27||2085.0000||Active||WESTWOOD RIDGE APA..|
|205100116690||2020-03-27||2189.0000||Active||WESTWOOD RIDGE APA..|
|207200122069||2020-04-14||1440.0000||Active||Crescent Place Apartme..|
|207200122071||2020-04-14||1500.0000||Active||Crescent Place Apartme..|
|207200122070||2020-04-14||1480.0000||Active||Crescent Place Apartme..|
|204100134006||2020-05-13||1750.0000||Active||One Camden Court|
|205200119043||2020-04-02||730.0000||Active||Brant Rock Apartments|
|207200125763||2020-04-22||null||Active||CULLEN PARK APARTME..|
|207200125766||2020-04-22||null||Active||CULLEN PARK APARTME..|
|207200125767||2020-04-22||null||Active||CULLEN PARK APARTME..|
|207200125764||2020-04-22||null||Active||CULLEN PARK APARTME..|
|207200125770||2020-04-22||null||Active||CULLEN PARK APARTME..|
|207200125769||2020-04-22||null||Active||CULLEN PARK APARTME..|
|207200125768||2020-04-22||null||Active||CULLEN PARK APARTME..|
|201100117290||2020-03-30||2706.0000||Active||CHAMPION FOREST APA..|
|204100128909||2020-05-04||1904.0000||Active||MANSIONS AT HASTING..|
|201200117268||2020-03-27||792.0000||Active||M - CHELSEA SENIORS LP|
There Is a Huge Need for Rental Assistance
Last week, the City of Houston partnered with BakerRipley to administer $15 million in rental assistance. The program required landlords to register and tenants to apply for relief. If approved, the program would pay the landlord directly on behalf of the tenant.
The program launched May 13 with a first-come, first-served prioritization. Over 17,000 people tried to access the site within the first hour. And after 90 minutes, all the funds were gone.
There are many valid criticisms about how the rules and administration of this rental assistance program. I believe that all of these organizations will get better at administration with time.
However, one thing is clear: the need for rental assistance is urgent and enormous.
There is Room for Innovation
Over the last two weeks, we have been investigating the evictions landscape of Montrose, Houston by talking with landlords, tenants, and social service providers. On behalf of the Montrose TIRZ, we wanted to understand what people are thinking about right now.
Generally, the landlords of Montrose have not yet seen the economic effects of COVID-19. Although some of their tenants have been laid off, one landlord said that they collected almost all of their rent on time.
From the tenants we spoke with, this could be due to the fact that Montrose residents are reasonably affluent and draw upon existing savings to stabilize their housing.
What can landlords do to ease the pain? There were several ideas that came to the surface in our conversations:
- Defer payments to investors by one quarter, if possible. This eases the pressure of collecting rent immediately and provides more room to work out a payment plan with tenants.
- Apply for forbearance. Having a mechanism to delay foreclosure buys valuable time as property owners and tenants figure out how to stabilize their relationship.
- Sign up for rental assistance programs. Both the Harris County Eviction Diversion Pilot Program and the City of Houston COVID Rental Assistance Program require landlords to register and refer tenants.
- Be proactive with tenants. Property owners have the ability to reach out to tenants in advance, and to provide social service referral information. Many of the tenants we spoke with had no idea that rental assistance programs existed.
What will we see over the next two months?
With the Texas evictions moratorium expiring, we expect to see a significant uptick in eviction cases filed and disposed. However, there may some mitigating factors, such as:
- The economic impact of COVID-19 might lead property owners to try harder to keep existing tenants rather than find new ones.
- Eviction case volume in Harris County has been at historic lows over the last two months. While the backlog of cases is alarming, it does not portend a region-wide rental housing disaster. Still, we can’t rule that out yet.
- The impact of short-term stimulus payments to tenants and property owners will hopefully reduce the number of eviction cases in May and June.
Nevertheless, unless there is some type of government intervention, we expect eviction cases to increase throughout the month of May. We will continue to monitor filings through this crisis. If you have questions you’d like to answer, please let us know.