CDC order offers protection for San Antonio renters, but not yet

Agency order to take effect Friday could halt many local evictions through Dec. 31

SAN ANTONIOEditor’s note: If you’re facing eviction, you must present a document to your landlord to receive protection. Click here to download it.

A new order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has the potential to protect numerous San Antonio renters from eviction through the end of the year.

The order, which was released Tuesday and is expected to take effect Friday when it is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register, follows President Donald Trump’s executive order in early August. Under the directive, landlords are prohibited from evicting “any covered person” from a rental property for non-payment of rent.

To be “covered” under the new protections, a renter has to provide a signed declaration to their landlord, affirming the following:

  • “The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
  • The individual either (i) expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return), (ii) was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or (iii) received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act;
  • The individual is unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
  • The individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other non-discretionary expenses; and
  • Eviction would likely render the individual homeless— or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting— because the individual has no other available housing options.”

The protection will last through Dec. 31, 2020. Renters will still owe their late payments, and the order allows landlords to evict tenants for reasons not related to late payments.

However, it has not taken effect yet, and eviction cases in the courtroom of Bexar County Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Roberto Vazquez continued as normal Wednesday.

Vazquez, though, said he is awaiting guidance from the Texas Supreme Court of Texas, or the Texas Justice Court Training Center, on how to handle the new protections and that he would likely have to postpone next week’s eviction cases.

“This order is going to take place if the defendant, tenants, take affirmative actions to stop the eviction from their particular case from taking place. So we’ve got to sort through the logistics of that administratively,” Vazquez said.

District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino, who has repeatedly brought up concerns about affordable housing and evictions, said the protections came as a “welcome surprise,” though he says the city still needs to provide more money for emergency housing assistance.

“It’s affecting many businesses. It’s affecting many people who work at those businesses,” Trevino said about the effects of social distancing recommendations and restrictions. “And so they’re seeing reduced hours. Some people have lost their jobs. We, as a city, have put people on furloughs. And so, no, just because this is in place, it does not mean that there is not going to be a need for an emergency housing assistance.”

The City of San Antonio expects to finish off the $50.3 million it set aside to help struggling families pay their rent, mortgage and other bills sometime later this month. The proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2021, which begins Oct. 1, currently contains only $5.25 million for the same purpose.

In a statement texted to KSAT by a spokesman, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the CDC order would “help stave off a wave of pandemic-caused evictions in this city and across the country.”

“However, it is not a permanent fix, and we must stay focused on our ongoing efforts to get people into stable jobs with a future, so that San Antonio families can sustain and thrive,” the mayor said, in an apparent reference to both the existing workforce development program and the sales tax-funded one he wants voters to approve at the ballot box in November.

Read the CDC’s order in full below:

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.