Texas Evictions and Foreclosures in the Age of the Coronavirus

Texas Evictions and Foreclosures in the Age of the Coronavirus

by Onyinyechi Muilenburg

On March 19, 2020, the Supreme Court of Texas executed the Fourth Emergency Order Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster.  The Order states that in any action for eviction to recover possession of residential property under Chapter 24 of the Texas Property Code and Rule 510 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, no trial, hearing, or other proceeding may be conducted, and all deadlines are tolled, until after April 19, 2020.  The Order further states that a writ of possession may issue, but the posting of the writ of possession may not occur until after April 26, 2020 and that new filings may be accepted, but the issuance and service of citation may not occur until after April 19, 2020.  The Order also states that the case may nevertheless proceed if they meet certain narrow requirement such as imminent threat of physical harm or criminal activity. 

Harris County, Texas, as with other counties, has issued its own order restricting evictions.  On March 23, 2020, the sixteen individual Justice Courts of Harris County executed their First Amended Order Regarding Court Proceedings Pending COVID-19 State of Emergency.  Among other matters the First Amended Order states that eviction dockets scheduled to begin on any date from March 23 through April 19, 2020 will be suspended.  The Justice Courts will continue to accept filings, but the parties will not be allowed to proceed to trial until after April 19, 2020 as of the date of this article.  At least one constable of Harris County has publicly stated that he will not be doing any evictions until after April 30, 2020, which is beyond the scope of the Justice Courts’ order and Supreme Court of Texas’ order.

Evictions in Texas require the filing of an original petition, citations and service on the tenant or occupants, trial and issuance and execution of a writ of possession.  Other than the initial filing of the petition, all other aspects of a residential eviction are affected by these orders.

Further, President Donald Trump previously announced that he ordered the Department of Housing and Urban Development to halt all evictions through the end of April 2020.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development then issued a Moratorium on March 18, 2020 for 60 days halting foreclosures on properties secured by FHA-insured Single-Family mortgages.  The moratorium applies to the initiation of foreclosures and to the completion of foreclosures in process.  Similarly, evictions of persons from properties secured by FHA-insured Single-Family mortgages are also suspended for a period of 60 days.

As of the date this article, commercial properties do not appear to be included in these orders and the Supreme Court of Texas has not suspended foreclosure proceedings. 

However, the Supreme Court of Texas’ Third Emergency Order Regarding COVID-19 State of Disaster issued on March 19, 2020 states that Courts must not conduct non-essential proceedings in person contrary to local, state, or national directives, whichever is most restrictive, regarding maximum group size.  It has yet to be clarified as to whether foreclosure proceedings are considered essential.  Further affecting foreclosure proceedings may be the shelter in place orders issued in respective counties and cities throughout the land, similar to the Stay Home, Work Safe order of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on March 24, 2020, which as of the date of this article is effective until April 30, 2020.  Foreclosure sales typically require in person bidding and interactions, which would could be encumbered by shelter in place orders issued by city and county officials or the extension of those already in place. 

It would not be overly speculative to predict several changes to the logistics of foreclosure and eviction proceedings in the future.

No information in this article is intended to constitute legal advice.  For specific legal advice, please contact an attorney.

If you have any questions or would like more information about Texas foreclosure and eviction law, please contact Eric Mettenbrink at 713.220.9141 or emettenbrink@hirschwest.com