HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With the death of the nationwide moratorium on evictions, hundreds of thousands of Texas renters lost a key legal protection they had against losing their homes. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the ban on evictions last week, clearing the way for Texas landlords to pursue evictions unabated.
But even when the federal moratorium was in place, the ban on evictions wasn't uniform. The moratorium wasn't enforced in every part of Texas, The Texas Tribune reports. And not all renters knew about the order - or how to take advantage of it.
Out of more than 25,000 eviction cases in Harris County from September to July, the moratorium helped tenants in fewer than 3,300, according to an analysis by January Advisors, a Houston-based data firm. Of those, about 2,400 still could face eviction.
On Thursday, Harris County Precinct 1 Constable's Office and community leaders held a news conference to discuss an initiative to help tenants out before they become in danger of losing their homes.
"This agency has always been about helping the public. And we will always be about helping the public," Harris County Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen said.
In partnership with South Texas College Law of Houston, the Eviction Defense Coalition and Lone Star Legal Aid, Precinct 1's initiative offers free legal assistance to tenants who are at risk of losing their homes or those who are looking for monetary assistance in order to pay rent.
"There was an understanding that there was a gap, there were billions of dollars in the state and millions of dollars in the county that tenants weren't getting access to. The landlords didn't have access to either," said Harris County Pct. 1 Chief Carl Shaw. "[Rosen], recognizing the issue we had, said, 'How do we get together a group of experts who can help us make an impactful decision on how to use this money."
A report from August stated that across Houston and Harris County, every week there were about 500 to 1,000 families faced with an eviction notice. The problem was that only 3% of tenants have legal representation and don't understand the confusing process that is the moratorium.
Precinct 1 hopes that with its initiative, they can guide the tenants through the process and also help them obtain the money that is still available.
For more information, visit Harris County Precinct 1 Constable's website.