13 Investigates: Judges delay eviction hearings as ban lifted

ByTed Oberg and Sarah Rafique via KTRK logo
Monday, May 18, 2020
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13 Investigates breaks down where you'll find the most active eviction filings in Harris County.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- As Harris County's ban on evictions ends Monday, 13 Investigates found residents who are still trying to catch up on rent are getting more time.

Some landlords have still been filing evictions since a temporary ban went into effect on March 19, but judges are holding off on hearing those cases.

There's currently about 1,140 active eviction filings since then in Harris County. The areas with the most cases are in the northern part of the county.

INTERACTIVE: The map below shows all active evictions that were filed in Harris County between March 19 and May 17. Each dot represents the number of cases in a particular zip code. The larger the dot, the more cases filed. On mobile device? Click here for a full screen experience.

But, when it comes to enforcing evictions, each of the county's 16 Justices of the Peace are in charge of how it is handled in their jurisdiction.

13 Investigates found many of them are holding off until next month before hearing eviction cases, except in emergency cases.

Although judges have already scheduled hearings for this week, 13 Investigates spoke with offices at courts with the most eviction hearings, and they are also rescheduling cases for next month.

On Monday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said she was "deeply disappointed" the Texas Supreme Court lifted certain protections.

Hidalgo released a statement:

"Restarting eviction and debt collection proceedings right now will only deepen the well of desperation many families are experiencing across our county. These are hard working families who, through no fault of their own, have lost irreplaceable income during this pandemic and may not qualify for federal assistance or eviction protections. Thousands of Harris County residents are already on the ropes, and becoming homeless will crush their chances for short-term recovery and long-term economic independence. Evicting families is also a threat to public health. We're working day and night to stop the spread of this virus and, at a time when we're asking residents to stay or work from home to limit spread, we cannot afford to contribute to a surge in homelessness."

This week, Hidalgo said the county plans to join the Greater Houston Community Foundation in providing rental assistance to residents.

On Tuesday, county commissioners are expected to finalize a vote that will help "vulnerable residents coping with the economic fallout" of the pandemic.

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