On Thursday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced all 16 justices of the peace have stopped eviction proceedings through the end of the month.
“I want folks to know they will not be kicked out of their homes because they can’t pay,” Hidalgo told ABC13.
The county’s 16 Justice of the Peace offices, where eviction notices are filed, jointly ordered to halt evictions through March 31. Hidalgo said she had plans to extend that into April.
“We are making very tough decisions, asking businesses to close, asking everyone to stay home. That obviously has an economic impact, and so, the last thing we want is for folks to be out on the streets,” Hidalgo said. “It’s the right thing to do, and from the health standpoint, you know, we’re saying stay home — you need a home to stay at.”
BREAKING: Evictions have been halted in Harris County in March, and I’m prepared to sign an order ending them for as long as necessary. We’re not allowing families to be thrown out on the street because of #COVID19. Thanks to our justices of the peace for doing the right thing.
— Harris County Judge (@HarrisCoJudge) March 19, 2020
Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman told ABC13 said he will not be doing any evictions until after April 30, possibly later depending on how the pandemic plays out.
Other Houston-area governments could follow suit. The Harris County directive comes on the heels of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development also putting on hold evictions and foreclosures of its properties nationwide.
The housing element has been paramount in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Under federal guidance, people have been told to practice social distancing and to work from home if possible.
President Donald Trump previously announced on Wednesday that he ordered the Department of Housing and Urban Development to halt all evictions through the end of April. That order only applied to HUD properties and homeowners with mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration
“These actions will allow households who have an FHA-insured mortgage to meet the challenges of COVID-19 without fear of losing their homes, and help steady market concerns,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a news release. “The health and safety of the American people is of the utmost importance to the Department, and the halting of all foreclosure actions and evictions for the next 60 days will provide homeowners with some peace of mind during these trying times.”
Hidalgo’s announcement on Thursday to extend that order to everyone in the county put some renters who have recently had their work hours reduced at ease.
For homeowners not impacted by Trump and Hidalgo’s announcement this week, financial expert Chris Hoag said the most important thing to do is to stay in contact with your lender.
“Be a grown up and have conversations. Let them know what’s going on. Everyone is being affected by this but you don’t want to hide from it,” Hogan said.
Hogan also suggests staying away from payday loans and to take a closer look at spending. If there’s anything you can cut to help pay for the essentials, like food and housing, make sure to plan accordingly.