Trump's Eviction Moratorium Hits San Angelo Landlords
SAN ANGELO, TX — If you are a landlord in San Angelo, get ready for a new law recorded to the Federal Register effective Sept. 4 that gives a renter the ability to avoid eviction for non-payment of rent.
Trump signed an executive order Aug. 8 that set forth the guidelines for an eviction moratorium. The Centers for Disease Control is the agency that issued the official order Friday because the purpose of the eviction moratorium is to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Since Trump’s order is a federal edict, it overrides state and local laws, offering San Angelo renters somewhat of a reprieve, if the renter facing eviction satisfies the order’s requirements. They are:
- The renter facing eviction must have applied his or her best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
- The renter facing eviction must either expect 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), was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act. The stimulus check, all $1200 of it, will likely disqualify most from the moratorium;
- The renter facing eviction must be unable to pay his or her full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, lay-offs, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
- The renter facing eviction must certify he or her 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;
- The renter facing eviction must certify that If evicted he or she would likely become homeless, need to move into a homeless shelter, or need to move into a new residence shared by other people who live in close quarters because I have no other available housing options.
- The rent is still due on December 31. The renter facing eviction must understand that he or she must still pay rent or make a housing payment, and comply with other obligations that I may have under my tenancy, lease agreement, or similar contract. The renter facing eviction must further understand that fees, penalties, or interest for not paying rent or making a housing payment on time as required by his or her tenancy, lease agreement, or similar contract may still be charged or collected. Finally, the renter facing eviction must understand that at the end of this temporary halt on evictions on December 31, 2020, his or her housing provider may require payment in full for all payments not made prior to and during the temporary halt and failure to pay may make him or her subject to eviction pursuant to Texas and local laws.
Justice of the Peace Eddie Howard said the courts scrambled to incorporate the order into their eviction hearings by Sept. 4. He expects to have this argument presented by accused rent non-payers. The renter facing eviction has to swear in court via a signed affidavit to the conditions listed above under the penalty of perjury, he said. Howard runs one of the four courts in Tom Green County that hear eviction hearings.
If you lie in a Texas court, and it’s proven, Howard said the penalty is a Class A misdemeanor that can send the lying renter to jail for a year with a $4,000 fine in Texas.
Howard stressed that the Trump order only prevents eviction if the renter does not pay the rent; it does not apply to evictions for other violations of a lease agreement. For example, Howard pointed out the common “peace and tranquility” clauses in leases. “Say a renter holds a loud party one night. That could still be grounds for eviction if it violates the lease,” he said. Lease clauses involving pets — too many, pets not leashed, and etc. — can also become grounds for eviction, he added.
“The moratorium is all smoke and mirrors, and once the smoke clears, you’ll see that it doesn’t do much,” Howard said.
Howard stressed that, under the moratorium, the rent is still due, all of it, on December 31 of this year. Landlords can add late fees and interest charges along the way, he added.
Another case where the moratorium does not absolve from eviction the occupant of a home he or she does not own is in foreclosures. "If the bank forecloses on your home and you’re still living there, you can still be evicted,” Howard said.
Andrew Killingsworth’s business is managing rentals for his clients.
“I haven’t had a problem with it (so far), and I stopped all late fees until last month,” Killingsworth said. He added that he was abiding by the CARES Act provisions that ended Aug. 1.
“Jobs are coming back and I think San Angelo is coming back pretty well, so I don’t know if a lot of people can show that they’ve been laid off,” he said.
According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the Concho Valley, with a population of 159,143, had 1,246 claims for unemployment compensation for the month of July 22 through Aug. 22, 2020. That is down from 1,843 claims in the previous 30-day period ending July 21. In March, before the coronavirus mandated shutdowns, the unemployment rate in San Angelo was 3%. It spiked in May to 10.7%. At the end of July, the latest date the rate is published, San Angelo’s unemployment rate had quickly fallen to 7.3%.
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