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Renters' relief: What you can do if you can't afford to pay

The Houston Apartment Association is encouraging people to talk to their landlords.

HOUSTON, Texas — Relief is coming to homeowners and renters.

President Donald Trump announced the Department of Housing and Urban Development will suspend all foreclosures and evictions through April.

It's part of the many efforts being taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The impact of the virus is being felt in communities across Houston.

Howard Bookstaff, general counsel for the Houston Apartment Association, said something like this has never happened before.

He added the most important thing people can do is reach out to their landlord as soon as possible.

Many are left wondering if they be able to afford to pay rent?

“Don’t just not pay rent. Make sure you communicate with your landlord and landlords will communicate with you. Landlords don’t want to lose good residents,” Bookstaff said.

He said some landlords are making payment arrangements or waiving late fees.

However, when it comes to coronavirus, Bookstaff said there’s no pandemic exclusion in leases that pertains to Landlord-tenant law.

“There’s nothing in the lease that tells renters they don’t have to pay rent, nothing in the lease tells owners that they can cut off services,” Bookstaff said.

He said don’t assume the president’s order to suspend all evictions covers you.

“Oftentimes when HUD, when the president wants HUD to do something it’s going to be pertaining to HUD either owned, financed or assisted properties and it may not pertain to everybody,” he said.

If you’re worried, call the Justice of the Peace in your precinct and find out what they’re doing regarding eviction cases.

“A lot of the justice of the peace courts in Harris County, and there’s 16 of them, they are suspending eviction cases for at least March and they’re considering what to do with April cases,” Bookstaff said.

Also, Bookstaff said this situation is evolving and certain clauses may protect tenants in lease agreements but they depend on each case.

He said if you do come to an agreement with your landlord make sure you get it in writing.

There are resources available for those who need them like financial aid.

For more information click here.

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