Houston Evictions Move Forward Amid Flooding, COVID-19 And A Federal Moratorium

September 24, 2020

Heavy rainfall from Tropical Storm Beta has led to street flooding across Houston. COVID-19 remains a major health and financial concern for many people. And the federal government has ordered a moratorium on many evictions across the country.

Despite all of this, Houston-area housing court judges are moving forward with evictions.

With 600 eviction cases on Harris County court dockets this week, renters, landlords and judges are continuing to grapple with how to navigate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention national eviction moratorium that went into effect over two weeks ago. The Texas Supreme Court has stepped in to offer more rules but it’s still unclear if people who could lose their homes will be protected.

On Tuesday, with Harris County officials warning residents to stay off the roads due to the potential flooding impacts from Tropical Storm Beta, some courts remained open, including Justice of the Peace Lincoln Goodwin’s court, where 74 eviction cases on the docket moved forward as scheduled.

Houston leads the country in the number of evictions since the pandemic began. Houston-area landlords have filed more than 11,000 cases since mid-March, compared to just more than 500 in the Austin area, according to data from the Eviction Lab at Princeton University.

With no state or local protections in place, a national eviction order from the CDC promised some relief for Houston renters.

But after the CDC order came out, Houston At-large Council member Letitita Plummer said her elation quickly turned to frustration when she realized it wouldn’t stop all evictions in Harris County justice of the peace courts.

“The JP courts specifically are really making decisions based on their own mindset for every individual case,” Plummer said, “which really makes it difficult especially because a lot of people don’t really know what their rights are and so they can’t challenge whatever the decision is made in court.”

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