Dallas council hears ideas to help renters during COVID-19 pandemic

Dallas city council members are working to figure out how to help people suddenly out of a job to avoid losing their homes. But the council also wants to make sure landlords aren't put in a position where they can't maintain their properties.

How to keep the COVID-19 pandemic from sparking a wave of homelessness may not be as simple as a proposal to give people 60 days to come up with their rent, officials said.

First, there are potential legal challenges that proposal could bring upon the city.

But the council also heard concerns that the proposal could put landlords in a position that would hurt their ability to provide safe housing for tenants.

It’s not just about residential tenants, but also about businesses. Restaurant CEO Randy Dewitt, of brands like the Whiskey Cake and Velvet Taco, shared his concerns.

“If you pass an ordinance that you don't have to pay rent, guess what? No one will pay rent. Even people who can. Unfair. Will put additional stress on landlords, and what landlords need to do is negotiate with every tenant. Do what is right,” Dewitt said, who is also a member of The Real Estate Council.

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But others argued there is a need for the city to regulate the landlord-tenant relationship during this unprecedented time to prevent some landlords from putting people out on the street.

Mark Melton is an attorney who was speaking on behalf of tenants' rights.

“There are a lot of landlords out there doing the right thing, however, in hundreds of calls there are also landlords that are not doing the right things. We are getting calls every day about people putting notices on doors, lockouts. I don't want people to assume the market is taking care of this. That is simply not true,” Melton said.

There are already state and county restrictions in place to prevent people from being evicted during the coronavirus emergency.

Councilwoman Cara Mendlesohn wants to make sure that people who receive a grace period can show that they were in fact impacted by hardship from the COVID-19, social distancing regulations.

She wants to make sure if they receive economic assistance from the city it would go toward rent.

The city will continue to receive ideas about how to craft an ordinance to protect tenants who have lost their jobs or incomes up until Saturday.

The city is set to discuss all of the proposals next Thursday.

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