City Hall

There’s a Plan to Help Dallas With Its Rent, but Don’t Expect Anything This Month

Your landlord wants your rent, come hell, high water or widespread respiratory illness.
Your landlord wants your rent, come hell, high water or widespread respiratory illness. Joe Potato / iStock
Barring something truly unforeseen, you, dear renter and reader, are still obligated to fatten your landlord's pocket sometime in the next couple of days. For all the stimuli that have been pushed out and all the hollering from the left about your plight, there's little relief on offer for those who get their housing from someone else, rather than owning it themselves.

There's a plan, pushed by City Council member Adam Bazaldua, that could help make things a little less ominous, but March has just turned to April, and the city isn't in a hurry to get anything done.

Here's one important thing that is true: For now, regardless of whether you pay your rent, you aren't going to get evicted. Eviction court hearings are suspended statewide until April 19 and through May 18 in Dallas County. That's the good news.

The bad news is that your landlord still has the right to charge you late fees and file for future eviction proceedings, should you not be able to make your monthly rent. You aren't going to get tossed out on the street if you've been laid off and can't pay your landlord, but you are going to be in really bad shape.

Bazaldua's plan, which he asked Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson to put on the City Council agenda this week, would amend city code to temporarily ban landlords from issuing notices to vacate either to commercial or residential tenants. Doing so would prevent confusion and keep tenants from being exploited, according to Bazaldua.

"(T)o all the landlords out there, I want to say something to you directly: Have a heart." — Eric Johnson

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"A big concern that I have is the amount of people who don't know what (a notice to vacate) means and what their rights are as tenants," Bazaldua says. "We have a large, vulnerable population of undocumented residents here that we have to be cognizant of during these times."

Small-business owners would also be protected under the new ordinance, something that's not true of the existing moratorium, according to Bazaldua.

Rather than placing Bazaldua's proposal directly on the council agenda, Johnson announced Tuesday that he is referring it to one of the two special committees he convened in order to deal with the coronavirus crisis. For the time being, Johnson said, it's imperative for tenants and landlords to work together to make it through the crisis.

"We cannot afford to rush into something that is this far-reaching," Johnson said. "In the meantime, and to all the landlords out there, I want to say something to you directly: Have a heart."

Johnson went on to remind renters that "landlords have bills, too."
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young