Throughout the pandemic, a temporary ordinance in Dallas offered additional protections for tenants facing eviction
. Over time, though, it became difficult to get the full benefit of these protections. Changes to the ordinance City Council approved Wednesday aim to remedy that.
Before, the deal was your landlord had to give you a 21-day notice of eviction before posting a notice to vacate. In that time, if you showed proof you were financially affected by the pandemic you got a full 60 days from the initial notice to avoid eviction.
But after a while, it got harder to prove that COVID specifically was the reason people were behind on rent. That meant many people never got the full 60 days, and some were getting kicked out as they waited on rent assistance. On top of that, there was no guarantee landlords would take late rent checks if tenants did get assistance.
After talking with the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, local attorney Mark Melton
, who wrote the temporary eviction ordinance and runs Dallas Eviction Advocacy Center, pitched a few amendments to the city, which were approved this week.
Now, instead of getting 21 days to prove COVID caused them to get behind on rent, tenants have 10 days to show the landlord they’ve applied for rental assistance. This is a much easier standard for tenants to meet, and if they do, they get the full 60 days to avoid eviction. Under the original ordinance, tenants were getting evicted even as they had active rental assistance applications. The changes in the ordinance could prevent this from happening.
The updated ordinance also includes what is called a right to cure. Under Texas law, Melton explained, “If you fall behind on rent, your landlord is under no obligation to accept your late payment.”
So, Melton said, “you can walk in with a check for the full balance — this has actually happened to me several times, by the way, paying rent for people — and the landlord can say, ‘Nope. I don’t want it. Keep your money. I’m just going to evict you.’”
Now, the ordinance requires landlords to accept late rent in the initial 10 days the tenant has to apply for assistance.
This ordinance is meant to be temporary, but the city is considering adopting a permanent one. A permanent ordinance is still being drafted, but Melton had a few ideas for it. He said instead of giving tenants 10 days to show they've applied for rental assistance, maybe they should get 15 days.
“The idea there on a permanent basis is not about rent assistance directly. It’s about ‘We want you to at least have enough time to get through your next pay check,’” Melton said. “So, if a person gets paid twice a month, every other week, you should have at least a 15-day reprieve here to get to that check to get yourself caught up. If during that 15-day period there happens to be rent assistance and you apply for it then you can get some additional time, 60 days maybe.”
City staff are set to show a draft of the permanent eviction ordinance to the Dallas Housing and Homelessness Solutions Committee next Tuesday. A final vote by the City Council could come by the end of the year.