HARRIS COUNTY - Thousands of Houston area families will face eviction soon. The Texas Supreme Court is lifting its moratorium on eviction hearings and debt collections on Tuesday, May 19.
The Metropolitan Organization is calling on Harris County Judge Hidalgo and other leaders to stop eviction hearings from starting, saying many families will end up homeless.
"Please we ask the authorities to pass an extension to the eviction moratorium so families can have a roof over their heads and children do not live in fear of being homeless," said Father Jose Carmen Hernandez-Angulo of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church.
They describe the disappointment felt when the City of Houston's $15 million rental help fund ran out in 90 minutes Monday.
"When they were processing the applications and the funds ran out really quick, you could see the hurt and disappointment in their faces," said another member of the TMO.
On Tuesday, Justices of the Peace can begin sending notices to tenants to appear in court.
We asked Lone Star Legal Aid Attorney Nick Whitaker for advice for tenants.
"I do recommend getting an attorney if you can. Of course, that will not be feasible for many people who find themselves in this situation. It is always helpful to try to talk to your landlord first to see if there is any way to work it out, get onto some sort of payment plan," said Whitaker.
If the judge rules you are to be evicted, you have until a Writ of Possession is posted, which the Supreme Court ordered cannot happen before May 26th.
The Court also ordered that landlords must report whether the property has a federally backed mortgage because the CARES Act freezes those evictions until August 23.
Courts can begin debt collection proceedings on Tuesday. Legal experts say stimulus checks are not protected from being garnished, at least at first.
"Unfortunately there is not protection from a creditor getting the money from your account, or freezing it before the consumer is notified. But the consumer should get the notice they have the right to go to court to get some of that money back if it was stimulus money," said Whitaker.
We asked Judge Hidalgo's office if she plans to extend the eviction freeze. We have not heard back yet.
If you need legal help with an eviction or debt collection and cannot afford an attorney, you can reach out to Lone Star Legal Aid, the Houston Volunteer Lawyers, or research self-help resources through www.TexasLawHellp.org.
Renters can also dial 211, the United Way Helpline, for rental assistance programs.