Texas Evictions Reach Pre-Pandemic Highs

Eviction notice letter | Image by Bing

In an April report from Eviction Lab, a Princeton University-based research center, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston ranked among the top ten U.S. cities for most eviction filings.

According to KHOU, eviction filings have reached highs not seen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first 3 months of 2022, landlords from Dallas, Houston, and Fort Worth filed over 37,000 combined evictions.

At the same time, federal rental assistance is running out.

In the first week of April, Houston had the second-highest number of eviction filings in the country, Eviction Lab found. Fort Worth and Dallas also ranked in the top five for weekly filings.

In Austin, eviction rates have risen since last year’s local ban was lifted, KHOU reported. On Eviction Lab’s list, it ranked eighth.

According to KHOU, evictions are rising due to exhaustion of federal relief, expiration of government bans, and increases in rent.

Ashley Flores, senior director of Child Poverty Action Lab, said there is not just one reason for increased eviction filings.

“We can’t say for sure, but it feels like there’s kind of a perfect storm of factors that are colliding,” Flores told KHOU.

A spokesperson for Building and Strengthening Tenant Action (BASTA) Austin, Mincho Jacob, told KHOU that the number would likely increase.

“We really believe that we’re going to be seeing that number increase in a really radical way because the pressure points that are existing now are way worse than they were in 2019,” Jacob said.

According to David Mintz, the vice president of government affairs for the Texas Apartment Association, landlords have gone months without rent from tenants or aid from relief funding. Mintz told KHOU that sometimes they have no choice but to file for evictions.

“Unfortunately, from an owner’s perspective, when somebody’s unable to pay their rent, depending on the circumstances, there aren’t a lot of other options out there for them,” he said.

The U.S. Treasury Department sent more than $3.7 billion to Texas during the pandemic for local rental relief funds, but nearly all have been distributed or reclaimed. According to KHOU, $10 million was taken back from rental relief programs across nine counties and cities because it could not be spent fast enough.

An emergency order from the Texas Supreme Court temporarily requires representatives from legal aid or volunteer services to advise tenants in the courtroom who are facing eviction. It also states judges must postpone evictions if a landlord applies for rental assistance or joins in a tenant’s application.

The order expires in May, and it is unclear if it will be renewed.

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