COVID Eviction Stories

COVID Eviction Stories

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

Marcy’s story

Marcy had good luck at first with rent assistance in San Antonio, but the longer it took to receive relief, the more her property’s manager escalated tactics to get her out of her home.

Read Marcy’s story

My name is Marcy and I am a disabled mom of 4 with an inoperable brain tumor. Right now, I  live with my younger son, who is in 9th grade. When the pandemic hit, things went left for my family quickly. I normally receive disability income and work part time, but was cut from my job due to COVID-19. At first, we paid rent late as well as late fees, but things got harder as the pandemic dragged on. I don’t receive food stamps because I made too much money to qualify even though I was only bringing home about $1300/month. With bills and rent, there wasn’t much left for food. I had to make decisions: Do I feed my son or pay a bill? Do I pay all of my rent or not? 

I applied to the City of San Antonio’s rent assistance program. At first, the property manager at my complex was helpful in regards to the program application and also about late rent. While I waited for assistance, I would go to food banks and help out neighbors who didn’t have access to a car. We would share and trade different food products from our haul, and I made friends this way. But the longer rent relief took, the meaner the property manager became.

We received our first eviction notice in October 2020. My case was dismissed because the plaintiff didn’t show up for the court date. In December, the city paid some of the rent for the first wave of assistance, but it didn’t cover everything, and the property manager filed a 2nd eviction notice in January. During my second eviction court appearance on June 7th, she testified, saying that she didn’t want the money owed, she just wanted the property back. The judge tried to work with her but she refused, so the judge ruled for the plaintiff. I appealed using Legal Aid’s help, which is time consuming and costly. I am still living at my apartment complex during the appeal process, but I don’t feel safe.

One day, while my case was still in appeals, I came home and my service dogs were acting anxious and scared, which is unusual for them. I realized that someone from the apartment complex had drilled a hole through my lock and went through my belongings. To know someone went through my things, my privacy felt so invaded. Since my court case is still in appeals, I have every right to be in this apartment. And if I’m being honest, things can be replaced. But to scare my dogs that much, it broke my heart. 

I don’t have any family here who I can move in with. It’s currently just my son and I. It may come down to me living in my truck while my son stays with a friend, but I don’t want it to get to that. I’ve started looking for apartments, but maybe I’m too honest about our situation, and it doesn’t work out for us. The $50 application fees are adding up and we can’t keep paying them. There are not enough affordable housing options, and if you do find them, we have seen up to a 2 year waiting list. There needs to be more resources put into the community for everyday people than what we have, from affordable housing to more legal aid. Families are being broken apart because there isn’t enough to go around.

Janie’s Story

Janie was able to apply for rent relief while taking care of both her immediate and extended family and suffering from COVID herself. The issue she has been confronted with is the Texas Rent Relief agents has not been meeting her effort level.

Read Janie’s story

My name is Janie and I am a 63 years old single mom on disability, with an autistic child of 8 years old. I am a recent cancer survivor and Covid survivor. God made the path for me to also take care of my great nephew. With the pandemic and winter freeze issues we have had in Texas, I got behind on rent. Unfortunately, there are many of us who slipped through the cracks when it comes to receiving rental relief we were promised during COVID-19. 

I applied in February of 2021 for Rent and Utility Assistance and Texas Rent Relief. If we apply for assistance, it means we need financial help. We all can’t afford computers or the internet. I have struggled to send PDF documents through my little phone. At first, I submitted my documents and application, but then I was informed to re-register in their new system, so I had to resubmit documents. Since then, I have spoken almost daily to TRR’s customer service. Every day I check my status. It said I was “Unresponsive,” even though I speak with TRR every day and have a record of my calls and emails with them.

When I finally heard from customer service, they said there was a glitch in the system, which was the reason I was marked “Unresponsive” and received an application denial. They admitted it was a mistake on their side, but they requested another copy of my lease. Then, they wanted me to submit my Electric Disconnection notice for utility help, and every time they say there are no issues, yet it’s still being reviewed. Finally today, I found out I have a caseworker, but it’s been four months since I first applied, and every day I am afraid that my landlord will serve me an eviction notice.

I wish that it was easier to communicate with my caseworker by phone or email, or that I could have better communication with my caseworker. I also think it would be helpful to have frequent system updates, so that we can see some progress and know what’s going on with our applications (like, Stage 1, Stage 2, etc).  I wish that the customer service agents were more educated so applicants have an idea of what is really going on and get them done faster.

I am in desperate need of help. If I were the one not following through with Texas Rent Relief agents, I could understand the slow process. But I am working hard at providing documents and doing everything asked of me. But I have had sleepless nights. I am thankful they are still considering my application, but I fear they are not moving fast enough for my landlord, who also has bills to pay.

Mona’s story

Mona has had steady work for her entire life. The pandemic changed that. The protections put in place by the government should work for her by the letter. But what happened was a completely different story.

Read Mona’s story

My name is Ramona and I am a 57-year-old woman in marketing who was laid off due to COVID-19. I understand the stigma of asking for help, especially in the state of Texas, but times are tough, so I had to live on unemployment for over a year while taking odd jobs with services like Instacart and UberEats. I submitted a CDC declaration to my landlord in Sept 2020 and again in March 2021, applied for rental relief, and notified her that I qualified for federal assistance, but she refused to participate in the Eviction Diversion Program. Unfortunately, my CDC declaration was ignored in court and I was evicted from my apartment on March 31, 2021. Let me tell you: those odd jobs are not easy, and it was frustrating to know how hard people work to put food in their mouths and still risk eviction. 

However, on April 2, 2021, a Texas Rent Relief Program representative informed me that I was approved for 6 months rent, which was sent to my landlord. I notified the representative that I had been evicted. She said that since I no longer occupy the unit, the landlord has to return the funds or it would be fraud. I was devastated to learn that I would not receive any of the money because I still owe the landlord $3000+ due to my eviction judgement, not to mention the money needed for application fees and deposit on a new apartment.

All of my belongings are in storage and I am now staying with a friend, who is being put at risk  of catching and spreading COVID-19. Feeling desperate and hopeless, I contacted the administrators of Texas Rent Relief to ask why they were not awarding rental relief to people that had been evicted, and they informed me that my landlord had filed an application for Texas Eviction Diversion Program for my unit six days after the court date which determined my eviction date. I received this information with complete shock, because at that time, I had already removed my belongings from the unit and the property manager had this information. Right now, I am in the process of trying to understand if this might be a case of fraud, since someone in the apartment building applied for rent relief for my unit and person after they already filed an eviction suit against me. 

Isn’t the point of rental assistance to keep people from being homeless and stopping the spread of COVID? A landlord disregards the eviction moratorium and the tenant loses the funding? How can this be? I hope you understand the impact and failure of the system. I am sure there must be many others in my situation.

Jamie’s Story

Jamie is living with her children and has a newborn grandchild on the way, all while battling COVID-19. Her landlord threatened them with eviction multiple times, suggesting that CDC moratorium will not deter him. She wants to see real change and fulfilled promises from state and local officials.

Read Jamie’s Story

My name is Jamie and I am a disabled woman living in a rented house with my adult children, one daughter, one son, and his pregnant fiance. As soon as we moved into the house, we realized it wasn’t as great as it first seemed: it was dirty, there were roaches, as well as squirrels or rats in the walls. Unfortunately, my entire family got COVID-19, and it was safer to stay in the house than look for a place to stay while we were all sick.

The living situation got worse the longer we stayed. I am currently living off of disability while my kids pay all the rent that they can. We don’t like the situation, but money is an issue, especially with a baby due in June. The first month we fully missed rent was in February 2021, and our landlord immediately threatened us with eviction, but without a formal eviction notice. He would bang on the door for “gas money,” and random people would knock on the door late at night asking about the used cars in the front yard that he was selling. While all of this was going on, we worried about my son’s fiance’s pregnancy, especially since she tested positive for COVID as well. 

The landlord continued to bully us in person and over text, threatening eviction but never giving us an eviction notice. I contacted the Ellis County Homeless Coalition and President James Bell helped me learn about Texas Rent Relief and the CDC moratorium on evictions. He’s also been the mediator between me and the landlord because they are vulgar and argue with me. I applied for TRR and turned in the CDC moratorium on February 4th, and the landlord’s response was “I have already evicted other tenants and I know how to get around the COVID law.” But he still did not send me an eviction notice. He just kept harassing us.

After a while, I got fed up and wished the landlord would take me to court so that I could prove that I had COVID and that the courts would tell him he can’t evict me. Meanwhile, COVID-19 hit me harder than my family, and I am still experiencing side effects from it, which landed me in the hospital two times after I initially got COVID. Not only have I been having heart issues, but it has increased my anxiety and PTSD, which I already had, but they got worse since all of this happened.

As I am waiting on my rental relief application to go through, my biggest issue is that there is no way to stop the bullying and uncertainty with a landlord who threatens eviction but doesn’t follow through. I don’t know what to do, so I pray a lot. I wish there was a way to stop the harassment without fear of losing my home. I also wish that mental health services related to COVID-19 could be provided. Not only am I suffering with increased anxiety, but my children are too. James Bell of the Ellis County Homeless Coalition does so much to help me, but I know he has other work to do, and I wish I had someone more formally dedicated to my particular case. Those are the improvements I wish to see.

Luke’s Story

We 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. Despite qualifying for federal protections, his landlord retaliated and made his apartment inhospitable.

Read Joshuwa’s Story

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.

%d bloggers like this: