COVID Eviction Stories

Told by people who are living through the realities of eviction and displacement during COVID-19.

Luke’s Story

We were were able to hear from Luke, a bartender who has searched for jobs since service industry work dried up in the spring of 2020. Because of his location, it was hard for him to qualify for rental relief.

Read Luke’s Story

My name is Luke and I am a bartender who was furloughed during the month of March because of COVID-19. From then until now, I’ve tried applying for all sorts of work, from retail clerk to auto parts delivery driver. I even applied for and got a few payments of mutual aid relief for restaurant industry workers, but they were no more than $500 each and were used up quickly. My unemployment ran out in July and I still couldn’t find work. 

Around November, my landlord started texting me about rent, saying that I had better get ANY job and start paying whatever rent I could as soon as possible. I started to fear the worst so I started researching COVID-19 related rental relief programs in Galveston County where I live. But navigating the rental relief process has been an absolute nightmare because I don’t live in a major Texas county. 

My hunt for rental relief didn’t turn up much. There was one Galveston City rental relief program that closed on August 19, 2020, so I had missed the deadline. And even though I live near Houston, I don’t qualify for Harris County aid. With the help of Texas Housers Staff, we called many organizations including the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, and we either found out I didn’t qualify based on my location outside of Galveston City, or our phone calls were never returned.

Navigating this rental relief process has been eye-opening and makes me want to get into politics in order to hold existing programs accountable and accessible to all. I’m sure there are many others out there who are in need, wondering why our location determines whether we get access to federal relief dollars.

Joshuwa’s Story

Joshuwa experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19 and despite qualifying for federal protections, his landlord retaliated and made his apartment inhospitable.

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My name is Joshuwa. I live in El Paso, TX with my two children who are 1 and 8 years old. At the beginning of the pandemic, my wife’s work hours were cut until eventually she lost her job, while I’ve been at home dealing with non-COVID related health issues and taking care of the kids. My landlord initially agreed to take partial rent payments because he knew my situation, but eventually he changed his mind. At one point, I received funding from Project Vida to pay some of my back rent, but it wasn’t enough to cover August, September, and October of 2020. That was when the landlord stopped accepting partial rent payments, and became blunt, rude, and openly racist to me and my family.

Over the months that I was unemployed, conditions of the apartment started to get worse due to normal wear and tear. Since he wasn’t getting his rent payments, the landlord refused to make repairs, so I decided to do them myself. When trying to figure out why our cable wasn’t working, I realized that our cable cord had been deliberately cut, and it wound up costing me money to get it replaced. Later, our AC unit was also deliberately broken. Mind you, this was in the thick of Texas summer, when temperatures were quick to reach triple digits. Eventually, some fuses in our home blew, so electricity did not work in half of the apartment, and he refused to fix that as well. He eventually served me eviction papers.

I met with some Legal Aid advisors and told them about my case. They advised me to call the code enforcement department to report the issue, after which they sent a city inspector to check out the conditions. They confirmed that the landlord deliberately broke things to get me out of the apartment. Eventually, my eviction case was dismissed because he did not give me proper notice. Even though I am able to stay in the apartment, it would be with no AC, partial electricity, and a landlord who has been racist and rude to me and my children. He has threatened me with eviction again, and because I don’t want my family to go through that anymore, we moved into my mother-in-law’s apartment. 

After all this, I feel like it’s too much of a hassle to fight him tooth-and-nail to make the apartment livable again. I think it will be easier and less tense if we find a new place to live where me and my kids are wanted. My biggest issue with the eviction system is that the landlord is not punished for the way he treated me and the property, so he can keep retaliating against tenants who can’t pay full rent, especially during this pandemic where we are all doing our best to survive. I wish there was a way to prevent him from doing what he did to me to other tenants in the future.

Kim’s Story

Kim works in the restaurant industry and lost hours due to COVID-19. Despite turning in a CDC declaration, her landlord is still trying to evict her.

Read Kim’s Story

Why is my landlord allowed to refuse rental relief? That’s been one of my biggest frustrations since the beginning of my COVID-19 eviction story. My name is Kim and I live in Houston, TX where I work in fast food service. Once COVID-19 hit, my work hours were cut significantly, but I didn’t lose my job. Even though I still had work, I was not making enough money to cover rent and I became worried about what would happen to my housing situation if I had to live like this for several months.

In the first stages of my worry, I talked to the assistant manager of my apartment complex. I told her I had rent for the month of March but that I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to make full payments. The assistant manager told me to pay rent for that month and to talk to them about setting up a partial payment plan in the future, if I needed it. In the meantime, I applied for BakerRipley’s Rental Assistance Program and filed a CDC Moratorium declaration. I qualified for April and May rental assistance. 

I tried paying my rent in June but it was refused by the property manager. The rental program I was approved for states that if the landlord accepts the rental assistance, they may not evict tenants for a certain amount of time, but it was not honored by the property manager and I received a Notice to Vacate. In court, I was offered the Texas Eviction Diversion Program but that was also refused. The landlord wanted me out and filed a motion to contest my CDC declaration because they said that I had not been making partial payments in a timely manner. Around this time, I enlisted the help of Lone Star Legal Aid.

Now it is 2021 and I went to court for the contest of my CDC declaration. I had been paying my rent to the County Civil Court as part of my case, as dictated my Lone Star Legal Aid attorney. On March 2nd, my CDC declaration was accepted by the court judge because the 3 months of payment were in the court registry, since the property manager refused my rent. Through all of this, I lost hours of work because of court hearings and all the landlord had to do is accept my rent money. 

 At the end of the day, I work for people and I need to be safe from COVID-19. I already put myself at risk by taking public transit, and I need my home life to be as safe as possible. If I’m evicted, I will have nowhere to live, and it may jeopardize my ability to work at my current job. On top of the stress of possible eviction, the whole process of qualifying for COVID-19 protections has been confusing and contradictory depending on who you talk to.

I can only hope the recent extension of the CDC Moratorium will help my case be dismissed along with the millions of tenants affected by this. I will do what I can to help other tenants stay safe also. I will keep informing all involved of our struggle with this urgent life issue. When we get full protection in every legal way will be when I will stand down. I hope this gives all of you hope to keep fighting also for all our lives to matter.