DALLAS - The end of the month means many people struggling to pay rent during the pandemic could be receiving eviction notices.
The city of Dallas is providing a layer of protection during this time, but some people aren't aware of their new rights. City officials say they are doing their best to spread the word.
“We're trying to mitigate avalanche of homelessness in the middle of a pandemic,” said Priscylla Bento, Policy Manager, Dallas Fair Housing Office.
Bento wants landlords and tenants to know that as long as there is a disaster declaration in place, people have more time to stay in their homes.
“We've had folks who have come back, received notice to vacate and the locks were on the door,” Bento said.
The city of Dallas passed an ordinance in April that requires landlords to first give tenants a notice warning them of a possible eviction.
“If you receive a notice to vacate or notice of possible eviction you do not need to immediately vacate, there are protections in place and a process,” Bento said.
After the warning notice, tenants have 21 days to provide documentation of a financial hardship due to COVID-19. Then they have another 39 days to try to come to an agreement with their landlord on a payment plan.
Justice of the Peace Judge Al Cercone says he's not seeing an increase in evictions in spite of the surge in unemployment.
“There doesn't seem to be as many cases as we would normally have in previous years when there wasn't a pandemic. Landlords it appears may be being lenient with their tenants,” Cercone said.
In April, advocates for landlords argued the ordinance would be unfair to landlords, who also have bills to pay to continue to provide safe housing.
Bento says the ordinance does not delay evictions that are not COVID-19 related.
"You may have a hardship due to COVID, but if you commit a crime, pose a physical threat, breach your lease beyond threshold of non-payment you can be evicted,” Cercone said.
The city of Dallas has resources to guide tenants who are facing eviction: https://dallascityhall.com/departments/fairhousing/Pages/COVID-19-EVICTION-FACTS.aspx