City, County and Courts All Take Action Taken to Prevent Evictions Until After September 30

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In the past nine days Travis County, the Travis County Justices of the Peace and the City of Austin have all issued new orders to prevent the issuance of a Notice to Vacate (NTV) or an eviction hearing until after September 30. The City of Austin also took the additional step to extend, until after September 30, the requirement that a 60-Day Notice of Proposed Eviction must be given to any resident prior to the issuance of the NTV.

The actions began Wednesday afternoon, July 22, when Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe issued Order 2020-15 that “deems it in the public interest to PROHIBIT the issuance of Notices to Vacate except where the actions of the tenant, or the tenant's household members or guests, pose an imminent threat of (a) physical harm to the property owner, the property owner's employees, or other tenants, including other tenants within the household; or (b) criminal activity.” The Order also “PROHIBIT[S] the removal of property or exclusion of a tenant by a property owner in the manners described in the applicable sections of the Texas Property Code.”

Violation of the Travis County Order violation of this order is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000. The Order also strongly encourages rental property owners to post a copy of the Order onsite and to provide a copy to any member of the public asking for a copy, but these steps are not required.

Also in the afternoon of July 22, in sync with the Travis County Order, the Travis County Justices of the Peace (JPs) issued Order No. 8. This Order states that “No eviction cases (residential and commercial) will be heard until after September 30, 2020 with the same exceptions as stated in Biscoe’s Order. Also, like the Biscoe Order, the JPs declared “No writ of possession will be issued until after September 30, 2020.”

On Thursday, July 23, in anticipation of the re-issuing of an order prohibiting the issuance of a NTV by City of Austin Mayor Steve Adler, and at the request of his office, the Austin Apartment Association submitted a list of needed exceptions to the Order. Included among the exceptions submitted for his consideration were: Repeated violations of community rules implemented for COVID Transmission Prevention, Falsely claiming COVID to avoid rent payment, partial rent payment or the entry of the unit by the owner or agent, Delinquent rent accrued prior to March 27, 2020, and Subleasing the unit in violation of the lease terms.

Late afternoon on Friday, July 24 the Mayor issued Order 20200724-18 prohibiting the issuance of a Notice to Vacate until after September 30. Exception to the Mayor’s Order are in line with the Order issued by Travis County and the Travis County JPs. None of the AAA exceptions submitted to the city were included in the Mayor’s Order.

This week, on Wednesday, July 29, the Austin City Council amended the ordinance requiring that rental housing providers give a 60-day Notice of Proposed Eviction before issuing a NTV and filing an eviction. The 60-Day Notice requirement has been extend to September 30, 2020. The ordinance originally passed on March 26 and this is the second time the expiration date has been amended.

The ordinance only applies to rental property in the city of Austin and is intended to recognize the economic hardship faced by many renters due to the city and county restrictions on business openings and operations. The 60-day Notice of Proposed Eviction requirement is for delinquent payments arising between March 27, 2020 and September 30, 2020. The notice requirement applies to “impacted tenants” which are defined as tenants that loses wages, revenue, or income during the disaster”.

The 60-day Notice of Proposed Eviction, as modified on May 7, can be delivered electronically using the email the landlord uses to communicate with the tenant in the regular course of business. The notice can also be posted on the front door of the impacted tenant’s dwelling unit. For a complete summary of the 60-day Notice of Proposed Eviction requirements download AAA’s Austin 60-day Proposed Notice of Eviction Ordinance: A Quick Understanding of the Ordinance.

Late last month, the Texas Apartment Association (TAA) was able to secure request to the Texas Attorney General seeking an opinion “Whether orders and ordinances adopted by local governmental entities pursuant to emergency declarations that have the effect of prohibiting, delaying, or restricting the eviction process as set forth in Chapter 24 of the Texas Property Code and the 500-510 rules of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure are valid under Texas law.”

Although Attorney General opinions are not legally binding, they can greatly influence policy decisions. TAA executive vice president Chris Newton had this to say about the opinion request: “We hope the Attorney General will provide an opinion that answers these questions about local ordinances and creates a more uniform and consistent process for situations when there is a need to file an eviction. Should the Attorney General share our opinion that these ordinances are not valid under Texas law, we hope cities will adjust their ordinances accordingly.”
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For more information about the recent orders, 60-Day Notice ordinance extension or the opinion requested submitted to the Texas Attorney General contact the AAA Executive Vice President Emily Blair at emily@austinaptassoc.com or Paul Cauduro, Director of Government Relations at paul@austinaptassoc.com or call 512-323-0990.