San Antonio – Concerns about evictions are on the mind for a lot of families whose members have lost their jobs recently.
Genevieve Fajardo, a professor at the St. Mary’s University School of Law, said she hears a lot of those concerns through the university’s law clinic.
“People are being threatened with evictions when they have lost their jobs, and they have no hope of paying rent right now,” she said.
Fajardo said people need to know their rights, and several state and federal laws are protecting renters during this time.
Any tenant in San Antonio or Texas cannot be evicted without a court order, and eviction courts are closed until April 30 unless that moratorium is extended, Fajardo said. She said people receiving a notice to vacate letter must be reassured that’s not the same as an eviction until they have a proper court hearing.
Those who are in public housing or renting from a landlord who has a federally backed mortgage are protected from eviction until July 25 unless the federal government extends the date.
“That is generally all public housing, Section 8 housing, of (Housing and Urban Development),” Fajardo said. “That is any housing where there is a mortgage held by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, any type of federally backed mortgage.”
You should check your lease to see if that information is included in your contract or ask your landlord.
But the current laws do not mean tenants get a rent break.
Rent must be paid to avoid eviction once the moratorium expires. Fajardo urges tenants to discuss possible scheduled payment options with their landlord if they can’t pay in full at once.
Help is in the works for those who live in San Antonio, according to District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino.
“We know people are scared and frustrated, but we’re going to do everything we can do help people stay in their homes,” he said.
The city is working on a plan to funnel more money into housing assistance programs through the Risk Mitigation Fund and creating a renters commission to offer protection to families beyond the “Stay Home, Work Safe” order period.
Trevino said nearly half of the city’s residents rent.
“We’re just trying to give people a chance to get back on their feet. The last thing we need is for 47% of our population to be facing the threat of eviction right now," he said.
The city’s Risk Mitigation Fund office has gone from about 57 weekly calls for assistance to nearly 4,100 weekly calls since the coronavirus pandemic started. With so much need, there’s no guarantee everyone will get help.
Renters who have questions about evictions can call the St. Mary’s Law Clinic at 210-431-5716 or Texas RioGrande Legal Aid 888-988-9996.