Review Of Houston Eviction Cases Finds Most Moving Forward Despite Federal Moratorium
A national eviction moratorium ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention went into effect over a week ago, protecting some renters from eviction through the end of 2020.
But after a week of implementation, it remains unclear whether the order will be effective at preventing homelessness or the spread of the coronavirus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Houston Public Media review of about 100 cases heard in Harris County during the first week of the CDC moratorium found the order isn't doing much for people in the Houston area — at least not yet. Only one of those 100 cases was halted by the moratorium.
To qualify for the moratorium, renters must make less than $99,000, or have received a stimulus check, and they must have lost income as a result of the pandemic. They must also send a letter to their landlords declaring they’re eligible for the moratorium, or else the eviction can proceed.
With 677 eviction cases on Harris County dockets during the moratorium’s first week, the outcomes have been a mixed bag so far, Lone Star Legal Aid attorney Dana Karni said.
"The results that we're seeing are situations where tenants had provided the document with the declaration to their landlord, but because the document wasn't notarized — signed before a notary — it was rejected by the court," Karni said. "Or because there was some concern whether the tenant had actually made ‘best efforts' the court felt like only a one-week continuance was sufficient."
Karni said the declaration doesn't need to be notarized in order to be valid, according to the CDC order.