Texas is restarting evictions. Is it too soon?

The title pretty much outlines the story. Now that Texas is moving through the reopening process and people are going back to work, tenants are going to be expected to pay (and in many cases catch up on) their rent. The question went before the state’s highest court already and allowing landlords to begin evicting delinquent tenants has been approved. But questions remain as to whether this shouldn’t have been phased in a bit later in the process. After all, not everyone is going to be able to come up with multiple months worth of rent the moment they’re back on the job. (Route Fifty)

Even though not all business activities have resumed in Texas, the state’s court system will press forward this week with eviction cases, which were put on hold during the pandemic. The Texas Supreme Court last week ordered that eviction hearings can begin on Tuesday and eviction proceedings can commence next week, on May 26.

Texas, like many states, paused eviction proceedings in an effort to prevent renters who had lost their jobs or had their hours reduced from becoming homeless. Other states with eviction moratoriums that were set to expire in the past week have pushed the dates into June and July. New York’s moratorium, which was set to expire in June, has already been extended into August. On the other hand, some states, like Georgia and Louisiana, never put a statewide eviction moratorium in place.

As the linked report indicates, this isn’t a case where everyone who was behind on their rent is going to be out on the sidewalk next week. Many renters have already made arrangements with their landlords to spread out their rent repayments over time once they return to work. Others were able to quickly file for federally enhanced unemployment benefits and began receiving checks, unlike the situation in Illinois. (Texas has already processed nearly 2 million coronavirus-related unemployment claims.)

There are also plenty of exceptions in terms of which renters may be facing eviction. Anyone renting federally owned or controlled housing will still be spared due to a federal moratorium that is set to last until July 24th. Residents of some of Texas’ largest cities, including both Houston and Dallas, have municipal moratoriums that run well into the summer.

But as I’ve noted here previously, most or all of that rent is going to have to be paid pack at some point, and probably sooner rather than later. More than half of the rental units in the country are owned by private individuals or small companies. Those landlords frequently have large mortgages that are due and they can’t take the hit to simply lose a significant percentage of their annual income. If provisions aren’t made to ensure that renters catch up on their delinquent debt, we’re really just swapping one crisis for another.

Unfortunately, there will always be some people who fall through the cracks. Not everyone is going back to work at once in Texas. Businesses have to figure out how to operate with fewer people and new social distancing rules in most cases. That means some workers will be slower to get back to their normal income streams and they may wind up getting hit with an eviction notice if they can’t pay.

This is one of those times when we’re just going to have to figure out how we can all work together and minimize the economic damage from this fiasco as much as possible. But there were always going to be some casualties in the economic crash. Just be thankful if you’re not one of them.