In this issue:

  • April sales and lease data released by HAR
  • Eviction court returns, but with important changes


Property Investors,

Another interesting week as folks start to slowly get back to work, back to restaurants (allowing 25% capacity in Texas currently), and back to international travel…well maybe not the last one yet.  In the Houston area, there is a noticeable pickup in traffic, I actually had to hit the brakes on the highway this week.  It was very strange to be happy to see traffic, but I’ll be honest I was.

Some very important data for Houston area property investors came out this week.  HAR released their April sales and lease data – see the full article here  The title is “Houston Housing Feels COVID-19’s Sting in April.”  Sales of all property types in aggregate were down 21.6% in April, year over year.  Number of leases for single family homes were actually only down 4.1% year over year, and the number of leases for townhomes and condos were down 9.5%.

These numbers are down, but it’s important to note many sales and leases were in progress by mid March, before the impact of the virus was really starting to hit the economy.  Personal conjecture, May’s numbers year over year will be down much more than April’s.  Still, very important to note the large difference between sales activity and lease activity, especially for single family homes.  People are still moving around, and the rental market will remain more robust than the sales market this summer.

This week we also received information on a resumption of eviction cases.  The most important change to note if you are having issues with a tenant paying is that you can NOT file for eviction until July 25 if you have a federally backed mortgage (i.e. by Fannie, Freddie, and Department of Urban and Housing Development [HUD] loans) or if your renters are living in federally assisted housing such as Section 8 housing.  This moratorium on federally backed mortgages was part of the federal CARES Act.  The owners of homes in many precincts trying to get an eviction processed must now sign an affidavit stating that they do not have a federally backed mortgage.

If you filed for eviction before Mar 27, the CARES Act does not apply, regardless if you have a federally backed mortgage or not.  If you do not have a federally backed mortgage or filed before Mar 27, precincts are starting to serve citations May 18, and courts will start hearing eviction cases on March 28 in Montgomery County and June 2 in Harris County.  Cases will be served and heard based on original filing date.

The courts have a large backlog of citations to serve and cases to hear, but the Houston area judges are hoping to be caught up on the backlog by end of June.  And, there will certainly be a higher number of filings made in the coming months, so the normal 21 days from filing to court case is basically out the window right now.  It is also important if you are going to the court in person, make sure to check if there are special rules requiring electronic document submission beforehand or mask requirements.

I will leave it there for this week.  If you are starting to brave restaurants, gyms, and/or salons, please do be safe, wear masks, and continue to practice social distancing.  We’re a long way from being out of this and must all work together more than ever.

Charlie Roseland