A pandemic-era 'lifeline' for renters facing eviction in San Marcos is set to expire
Andrew Maglich was living in student apartments last year when he got notice he would receive less financial aid for the following school year than he expected.
Maglich was making $8.25 an hour as a Texas State student employee and had already signed on for another year at his apartment. He struggled to get out of his lease and, a few months in, couldn't afford to pay rent.
“I'm like scrambling to try and find a job that is both gonna pay me enough and then schedule me enough,” he said. “Before I get to the point where I'm behind on rent.”
An ordinance passed during the pandemic gave tenants in San Marcos 90 days to pay overdue rent, fees and any additional charges before a landlord could begin the eviction process.
Before the ordinance, individual landlords decided how many days tenants could be behind on rent before evicting them, which could be as few as three days.
“[The ordinance] is really the only thing that prevented me from just being homeless on the spot. I had no idea where else I would go; I don’t have family to move back home with.”Andrew Maglich, Texas State University student
Maglich was grateful he had a roof over his head while figuring out what to do.
“[The ordinance] is really the only thing that prevented me from just being homeless on the spot,” he said. “I had no idea where else I would go; I don’t have family to move back home with.”
He said those 90 days were a "lifeline" for him and others in similar situations.
The San Marcos City Council adopted the ordinance in April 2020 after the city declared a state of disaster over COVID-19. But the ordinance is set to expire Friday, when the disaster declaration ends.
The end of protections could leave many tenants vulnerable and has raised concerns about an impending eviction crisis in San Marcos.
Council Member Alyssa Garza voted against ending the 90-day ordinance now and said it would’ve been better to wait until the end of the summer.
Having an eviction on your record can prevent people from being able to rent again. Garza said lots of renters, particularly students, have leases ending in July, and it might put them in a tricky place to find housing amid the usual summer surge.
Garza said the 90-day ordinance helped a lot of people avoid getting evicted while catching up on payments.
“I saw so many of our neighbors get creative,” she said. “We had stay-at-home moms selling cheesecakes on Facebook Marketplace, even kiddos going door to door offering to mow neighbors’ lawns. Those 90 days made such a difference.”
Garza said just because the COVID-19 disaster declaration is ending doesn’t mean its effects have gone away.
“Housing has been an issue even before the pandemic, and it's even worse now,” she said. “I see us having to have more serious conversations regarding our city's ability to help our neighbors meet their direct basic needs — either by increasing human services funding or securing more assistance for local nonprofits to secure grants or bringing in more jobs that pay a livable wage.”
Erin Hahn is a research analyst with Texas Housers, a statewide housing advocacy group. She said San Marcos’ 90-day period was unusual.
Most states have a period of around seven to 10 days for tenants to “cure” overdue fees before the eviction process begins, but Texas doesn’t have a set standard — it’s up to individual cities to decide.
Austin is the only Texas city with a permanent “cure" period, requiring landlords to give tenants a seven-day notice before starting the eviction process. Most Texas cities let the landlord decide, which can give tenants as few as three days before the eviction process begins.
Hahn said Texas Housers has been advocating for a statewide standard.
“A bill ... was heard this legislative session,” Hahn said. “It unfortunately failed.”
Although Maglich had the extra 90 days, he was still unable to pay back rent and fees, and ended up with an eviction on his record. He currently owes almost $4,000 to the apartment complex.
“I’m doing OK, I have a job with steady income now,” Maglich said. “I just don't see when I could ever pay off such an amount."
But he said he hopes one day he’ll be able to catch up.
After the ordinance expires, tenants will have whatever timeframe is defined in their lease agreement to pay overdue fees and avoid an eviction. If no timeframe is defined, landlords must follow state law, which requires at least three days' notice.