Analyzed whether tenants in Dallas who had a grace period to pay rent were able to avoid eviction at higher rates than tenants in cities that did not enact this policy.
Addressing housing policy, regulation, implementation, and practice is a critical step to promoting health equity, especially during a pandemic requiring people to abide by stay-at-home orders. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Dallas passed an ordinance requiring landlords to wait 60 days to give a notice to vacate and file an eviction, as long as tenants responded within 21 days and showed that they’re experiencing hardship because of COVID-19. Texas Tenants Union, a tenants’ rights organization that has been organizing for more than 40 years, is interested in whether this rent ordinance, as well as other mandates from the CARES Act and CDC rent moratorium, effectively reduced eviction.
The research team obtained eviction records from all ten Justice of the Peace courts in Dallas County, and full case files for a random sample of cases from one court. They compared case trends and patterns in eviction filings, and analyzed the nonpayment cases. Eviction filings dropped by 56 percent from 2019 to 2020, with some evidence that the Dallas ordinance contributed to fewer filings. The team also facilitated focus groups with tenants, program staff, and policymakers who identified several challenges to the full implementation of the tenant protections: the complexity of the eviction protections and rental assistance programs, the lack of integrated systems, the voluntary participation of landlords in the rental assistance programs, the need for better communication and awareness, and the lack of clear policy guidance for courts.
The Institute for Urban Policy Research published a report and hosted a community event of the groups’ research. The analysis suggests that the Dallas Eviction Ordinance, the CARES Act, the CDC eviction moratorium, and multiple iterations of the Texas Supreme Court Emergency Orders reduced the number of eviction filings, but problems with the implementation of the protections allowed those in need to fall through the cracks for a variety of reasons. First, the many policies enacted did not offer universal protection to broad segments of renting households. Second, many of those protected by these policies did not know their status, and efforts to educate them were not universally deployed. Finally, even when protected tenants were aware of their protection, their attempts to assert their rights were met by a system often confused on how to respect them. The combination of quantitative, qualitative, and focus group data will continue informing the tenant advocacy work of the Texas Tenants Union.