‘We need help’: With eviction moratoriums extended, some landlords are selling

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Tuesday, Austin and Travis County leaders announced they’ll be extending eviction moratoriums until May 1. It follows a federal move to do so Monday.

The rules protect tenants who can’t pay rent due to the pandemic, but the extensions are also forcing many landlords to sell.

Kathy Smart, for example, rents out her Travis County home, but her tenant owes her nearly $6,000.

“Not having the income and trying to keep up with everything — I’m behind on my car, behind on a lot of my other bills. I had to get loans,” she said.

With eviction moratoriums now extended until May and June, Smart is considering selling off her car to make ends meet.

“I’m having to think of other things I can sell, but I don’t have a lot,” she cried.

The National Rental Home Council indicates Smart isn’t alone.

Their survey, released last week, found one in five individual rental home owners had to take out loans to cover shortfalls in rent.

Nearly a quarter say they’ve even had to sell at least one or all of their properties.

“What about the people that have worked all their life to get their property, to have investment income, to take care of their families — so what, we’re supposed to lose everything we have?”

Kathy smart, travis county homeowner/landlord

“We’ve heard anecdotally, some of that happening, and I’m sure that’s going to continue to increase,” says Emily Blair, Austin Apartment Association’s executive vice president.

The association represents about 1,800 rental housing providers ranging in size.

Blair says rentals are important to keep in an increasingly competitive buying market.

“It offers a flexibility and maybe an affordability opportunity for people… we want to make sure we’re meeting that demand long term,” she said.

Austin rolled out its latest version of rental assistance earlier this month, RENT 3.0.

Blair says 5,000 applications have already come in and for the first time, landlords were allowed to start applications on behalf of their residents — 1,000 of them have already done so.

But landlords can’t do it alone. Both parties need to complete paperwork as part of the process.

“Landlords can only receive payments for rent after their tenant completes the application process, has been selected through the randomized selection, and eligibility is verified,” said Julia Campbell with Austin’s Housing and Planning Department.

Blair says while Austin’s RENT 3.0 program has helped, it’s not enough.

“There’s those situations where there’s not an ability or a desire, maybe, to pursue the rental assistance and so that’s kind of creating a growing problem that really does have operational impact on the property,” she said.

A situation Smart says she’s currently facing.

“My hands are tied. I literally can’t do anything. But I literally am not getting any help,” Smart said.

Blair says the group is working with city and county leaders to include carve outs, so a landlord can evict when they’re out of options.

“I can’t sell my house. It’s my retirement. I can’t. It’s all I have. And I’m just trying to keep it together,” she said.

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