Many questions remain about Dallas County’s order halting evictions

Last week, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued an emergency order suspending all evictions for 60 days.

The news is a relief for some people, but many are barely making rent and that’s led to a lot of questions.

People want to know if the halt of evictions applies to both rental houses and apartments. The short answer is yes. It applies to both. The only exception is if the tenant is determined to be a threat to others, then you can still be evicted.

The Texas Tenants Union says in Dallas County the order goes through May 18. In Tarrant County, the order is in effect until further notice. In all other Texas counties that don’t address it specifically in their own emergency orders, it is in effect until April 19.

But with the order in effect, people are still obligated to pay rent and mortgages as well.

Judge Jenkins says he is strongly encouraging landlords to forgo late fees. He’s asking the courts, which will eventually hear these cases, to provide relief from exorbitant or punitive fees.

Ian Mattingly with the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas says it's up to each landlord and management company.

“Certainly, the guidance that we’ve been providing to our members encourages our rental housing operators to work with residents who’ve been impacted by furloughs, layoffs and closures related to COVID-19,” he said.

Mattingly says if you are having trouble paying on time, talk to your landlord. He says struggling residents are encouraged to apply for unemployment through the Texas Workforce Commission. However, it will be up to the landlord or management company on how to handle it and what sort of documentation will be required.

“I would say as a general rule, the more documentation, the more information you can provide a landlord to make a good decision, the better off you are going to be,” Mattingly said.

Some people are wondering if landlords can raise the rent right now when officer lease renewals. The short answer is yes.

The Texas Tenants Union says Texas cities can enact rent control ordinances during an emergency, but so far there are none. TTU suggests emailing your landlord requesting the increase to be withdrawn and copying your elected official.

“You may have a renewal offer that you generated 60 or 90 days ago,” Mattingly said. “But the economic realities of the last two weeks are completely different.  I encourage all members to do what my organization has done in terms of looking at those renewal offers and in light of the new economic reality and consider making new offers to those residents.”

As far as extended-stay motels, it’s a grayer area because there’s no lease agreement and not technically an eviction.

Judge Jenkins says he’s asking owners to extend grace and accept partial payments when necessary. He says Dallas County can’t afford more homeless families right now.