San Antonio renters pressured by management, told to vacate during COVID-19 pandemic

In-person eviction hearings will not resume in Bexar County until June 1 at the earliest

A growing number of San Antonio residents are fending off landlords or apartment managers while trying to also qualify for assistance and find new employment.

SAN ANTONIO – Jessica Lerma was scheduled to start a new job March 16, right around the time many San Antonio businesses began to react to the COVID-19 pandemic or in some cases even shut down.

Lerma’s position was postponed indefinitely.

Now she’s among the growing number of San Antonio residents who are fending off landlords or apartment managers while trying to also qualify for assistance and find new employment.

“It’s defeat and frustration,” said Lerma, when asked to describe the last two months.

Lerma, a single parent, is among more than 7,600 people who have applied for emergency housing assistance through the city’s Neighborhood and Housing Services Department since mid-March, according to figures released by officials Tuesday.

The department received 919 applications last week alone, more than 16 times the amount it was receiving during the average pre-pandemic week.

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A growing number of people who have reached out to the KSAT 12 Defenders, Lerma included, fear that the program is backlogged because of a flood of applicants.

City officials have not described the current situation as a backlog, but have confirmed they are “telling applicants that the processing will take up to 30 days provided they submit a complete application with all support documentation attached and the landlord verifies the amount is correct.”

Lerma was able to secure assistance for her overdue April rent from SAMMinistries, but said the manager at her Stone Oak apartment complex, The Estates at Canyon Ridge, gave her a notice to vacate even after she was informed that a check was being processed.

“She was told it was going to take 10 to 14 business days to receive a check. She wanted it within two to three days. When she didn’t get it in two to three days they still issued me a notice to vacate,” said Lerma.

The apartment manager confirmed she was aware of Lerma’s situation when the Defenders stopped by Tuesday, but said she was not allowed to speak about it.

Lerma said she is currently about $1,500 behind but that figure will grow June 1 unless she gets approved for assistance or finds a source of income.

“I’m trying to look for work. I’ve been on the Indeed app every single day, applying to anything and everything that I can to help get me out of this situation,” said Lerma.

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Lerma’s complex, however, is federally backed by Fannie Mae according to records, meaning Lerma is protected from facing eviction until Aug. 23.

She said she attempted to confirm this information with apartment management but they refused to do so.

Let’s Make a Deal

A resident at the Wilshire Woods Apartments, located in the 2500 block of Harry Wurzbach Rd., has repeatedly received notice to vacate orders from management at his complex.

Late last month, management provided him a notice indicating that they would waive his entire balance if he agreed to move out within a few days.

Laid off since March 20, however, the man said he had nowhere to go and stayed put.

Apartment staff did not respond to a request for comment when by the Defenders via telephone Tuesday.

Wilshire Woods does not appear in the federal moratorium database, meaning eviction proceedings there can likely start up June 1, when Bexar County is tentatively scheduled to resume in-person hearings.

About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Dale Keller is senior news photographer at KSAT-12.