'Tsunami of evictions coming all at once' in Harris County as federal funding runs out

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- With the start of the new year, Harris County is seeing the same amount of evictions since before the pandemic, according to data from January Advisors.

"It's really a tsunami of evictions coming all at once. We have had various bulwarks against eviction, namely rent relief, that have stopped evictions for a long time," said Eric Kwartler, a public interest attorney and adjunct professor at South Texas College of Law Houston.

It may sound like a return to normal, but we've been living in a different economy since COVID-19 hit. The trend isn't good, especially when you consider the amount of assistance available.

Harris County has received nearly $300 million in federal funding for pandemic rent relief. But, by now, nearly all of it has either been distributed or allocated.

If you apply now and haven't been to eviction court yet, your application will be held until the next round of funding, which may never come.

"If you're a renter and you're having trouble paying your February rent, it's critically important that you communicate with the manager now," said Christy Rodriguez, the president of the Houston Apartment Association.

Experts are even advising folks to get an attorney.

"Tenants don't understand the process or they can't get off work. So, they don't show up for trial and they get evicted if the judge doesn't have time to look at their case, which is a lot of these high volume courts," Kwatler said. "Don't give up. This is not the end if you get an eviction notice. It does not mean you're going to get thrown out of your home immediately. It does not mean you're ever going to get thrown out of your home. You have rights."

There are still some resources available, and they can be viewed on the Houston Apartment Association website.

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