SCOTUS overturns eviction ban but aid available for Harris residents

By R. Hans Miller, News Editor
Posted 9/2/21

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal eviction moratorium on Aug. 26, opening the proverbial door for families to lose their homes after facing 18 months of the pandemic and its economic …

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SCOTUS overturns eviction ban but aid available for Harris residents

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The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal eviction moratorium on Aug. 26, opening the proverbial door for families to lose their homes after facing 18 months of the pandemic and its economic challenges.

“The Supreme Court overturned the eviction moratorium last night,” said Joy Partain, a spokesperson for BakerRipley and Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. “However, thousands of Houston (area) families are protected by the Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program. … There’s still more money, so families who haven’ applied definitely should.”

In a press release by the two organizations which oversee the Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program said More than 48,000 families have been helped with more than $180 million in aid which also helps landlords ensure their mortgages are covered and staff are paid. About $15.5 million of the $195.5 million in rental relief has yet to be distributed.

The program covers up to 18 months of rent and two months can be allocated to current or future rent to allow renters time to get their finances in order and past-due rent can go as far back as April 2020, but cannot exceed the 18-month limit.

Additional assistance is available for past-due utility bills if those items are rolled into a tenant's rent. The rent is paid to the landlords who must enroll their properties in the program.

To apply for assistance or enroll your rental property into the program, Harris County and Houston residents must visit www.houstonharrishelp.org or call 832-402-7568. Phone lines are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Anyone legally residing in Harris County or the city of Houston can apply so long as their employment has been negatively impacted by the pandemic and they are at risk of losing their homes and have a household income at or below 80% of the area’s median family income.

Applicants should have their annual or monthly proof of income, participation of public benefits documents, proof of residence, proof of need such as a past-due rent statement or utility bills, identification and proof of hardship due to COVID-19 such as a lay-off letter or notice of reduced wages or hours.

According to the press release, applications are not awarded on a first-come-first-served basis but rather based upon the individual needs of the applicant.

Landlords who enroll their properties in the program are required to waive all late fees and penalties or interest for past-due rent, cease pursuing legal action while a tenant’s application is being processed and credit tenants for any partial payments received.

From start to finish, the process involved the tenant applying online and submitting their paperwork to program operators. Once that is finished, the landlord must either enroll or already be enrolled. Applications are then selected and reviewed for eligibility. If the applicant meets the eligibility requirements noted above, the landlord is contacted to verify the past-due rent and asked to accept the provisions of the program. Once that is completed, the rent is deposited directly into the landlord’s bank account.

“Applicants may be approved for months not already covered by another program, but they cannot accept funding for the same expense twice,” the press release said.

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