San Antonio – Months of reprieve meant to help struggling residents stay in their homes during a pandemic came to an end Monday as eviction proceedings began in Bexar County.
Various emergency orders and protections have kept Bexar County eviction cases from proceeding through the court system since March when the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold. Though many landlords could still present tenants with notices to vacate, their court cases would not be heard.
That is, until Monday, when hearings began again at the Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace courts. The other three precincts are expected to begin hearing cases again through the next week.
Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Roberto “Robbie” Vazquez said only five cases at a time would be heard every half hour in two different courtrooms. Participants were also allowed to appear remotely.
Because of the back-log created from halting the evictions process, Vazquez said the cases on Monday morning’s dockets predated the pandemic protections.
“And sometime next week is we'll get into the cases that actually were filed in early April. So we're going to be doing this type of docket every day for the foreseeable future - about the next 10 days or so,” Vazquez said.
The cases continue to roll in, too. According to the county, between the four precincts, 214 eviction cases were filed in the previous week.
City and county staff appeared at Precinct 2 on Monday, as well, offering help through their emergency housing assistance programs, which could help pay back rent and avoid the eviction.
The city’s COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program was allocated $25 million in late April. Council members approved a “recovery and resiliency” plan in late May that included another $25 million for the program. The city has received applications for $21.5 million worth of assistance.
The county has expended about $193,000 of its $4 million program.
Meanwhile, roughly half of San Antonio rental properties remain covered until July 24 by a CARES Act moratorium on evictions for properties receiving federal housing funds. Even afterwards, the residents must receive 30 days notice before they have to vacate.
If a renter is unable to pay their rent, the city is urging landlords refer them to the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program at sanantonio.gov/emergencyhousingassistance or by calling 210-207-5910.
Bexar County has its own assistance program, and renters at properties outside the San Antonio city limits but within Bexar County can contact the Housing Authority of Bexar County at habctx.org/TRAM or by calling 210-940-1180.