Tenants' Rights Program
Welcome to the Tenants’ Rights Program Volunteer Resources Page! On behalf of the San Antonio Legal Services Association (SALSA), we look forward to having you volunteer with our program. We appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to volunteer and provide legal representation to tenants, especially during this crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing loss of income - reduced hours, furlough, and layoffs - so that even more members of our community will not be able to pay their rent. Although local officials and HUD have delayed the legal eviction process, now that restrictions have been lifted, we are anticipating a significant influx of eviction proceedings targeted at those who are most in need, but are unable to afford, legal services. Because of the sheer volume of cases, traditional legal aid providers do not have the bandwidth to assist those facing homelessness due to non-payment of rent.
The program's goal is for our volunteer attorneys to assist clients facing eviction due to non-payment of rent with navigating a resolution that provides the tenant a better outcome. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the desired outcome may include:
avoiding eviction (some of the clients will qualify for rental assistance, which may be a negotiation point to keep the client in the residence.);
obtaining ample time for the tenant to move out and find a new place to live;
allowing the tenant an opportunity to pursue prospective housing opportunities by ensuring that an eviction does not stain the tenant's record even if the tenant ultimately is forced to vacate their current living arrangement.
We encourage you to review the training materials we have provided in the links below. Our goal is to provide you all the tools and support necessary to succeed in your representation of the client. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need assistance. Thank you for joining us in our mission to help tenants in need during these unprecedented times!
As a reminder, status reports and case completion reports will be completed on our new website at www.sa-lsa.org/reports. We anticipate that this page will be available by the end of month.
TRAINING MATERIALS AND OVERVIEW OF LANDLORD/TENANT LAW
Training Video – created by Robin Eubanks, partner at Golden Steves & Gordon LLP, and David Denton, principle at the Law Office of David T. Denton, P.C. - this video follows the Tenants’ Rights Training Handout below.
Tenants’ Rights Training Handout - created by Robin Eubanks, partner at Golden Steves & Gordon LLP, and David Denton, principle at the Law Office of David T. Denton, P.C. - this handout is further explained in the training video listed above.
Tenants’ Rights Quick Reference Guide – a look at the law in conjunction with applicability to procedures in JP Court, authored by Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (TRLA) and adapted for volunteer use by SALSA.
Basics of Defending Evictions Presentation - created by Nelson Mock, TRLA Housing Attorney
San Antonio Eviction Checklist – This is a general overview of resources and applicable Property Code sections.
Negotiating with the Landlord – tips and arguments for keeping the client in the residence.
Vulnerable Populations Flyer – if you do not wish to attend a court hearing in person due to safety concerns from COVID-19, this flyer is applicable in all the Bexar County JP Courts.
How to request a Remote Hearing in JP Courts 1-4 – each JP Court has slightly different rules about remote hearings. Some judges prefer phone conferences and others allow Zoom hearings. Please check the court specific rules for your case. **Please note, in addition to the information for JP 4 contained in this document, there is a separate list of rules for JP 4 below.
Verification of Compliance with section 4024 of the CARES Act – this document should accompany all eviction filings made by the landlord taking place during the eviction moratorium on nonpayment of rent cases. If this document did not accompany a landlord’s initial filings, this could serve as a defense to your client’s eviction.
Live Eviction Hearings in Texas – want to see a live eviction hearing to get a better feel for the process? Check out http://streams.txcourts.gov/ which will lead you to an ever-evolving list of Texas counties hosting eviction hearings on a given time and date.
Bexar County Dispute Resolution Center – the courts are encouraging use of the Bexar County Dispute Resolution Center. To help ease negotiation, please feel free to use this resource at: https://www.bexar.org/1357/Dispute-Resolution-Center/drc
Forward-Looking Conversations to Have with the Tenant - While City rental assistance may be a great card to play when negotiating non-eviction with a landlord, rental assistance won’t last forever. In fact, we’re learning that those applicants who are approved for rental assistance are capped at about $3,000. How far will that get them with rent, maybe 2 or 3 months? Even if you’re able to successfully negotiate with the landlord to cancel an eviction and let the tenant remain for another 60 days, who’s to say the same issue won’t arise again later? Here are resources to present to the client.
CITY OF SAN ANTONIO RESOURCES FOR TENANTS
City of San Antonio Resources Page: If the tenant client is having trouble because of a lack of income, you may direct them to this page and have them look at the Housing options like rental assistance, Fair Housing and Emergency Assistance, and Utility Assistance. It’s good to familiarize yourself with what resources are available so that you can empower the client to take advantage of all available avenues for assistance.
More Resources: Has your client already applied for rental assistance with the City and maxed out their options? The City of San Antonio offers up to $3500 in assistance, or about 3 months rent. Once the tenant has utilized the full extent of those resources, they may have to look elsewhere for assistance. Here is a list of other resources that tenants can access.
PLEADING TEMPLATES AND OTHER AGREEMENTS PROVIDED BY TRLA'S HOUSING TEAM:
Pro Se Answer - This document provides for multiple potential defenses. Please only utilize the ones that pertain to your client’s case.
Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs – this document can accompany any pleadings you file. Because the client has qualified for our program based on Federal Poverty Guideline restrictions, they should also qualify for indigency with the court. Please see the subsequent “Certificate to Accompany Statement of Inability to Pay,” which should accompany your client’s Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs and apply where the checked box under Section 2 “Are you Represented by Legal Aid” is applied.
Legal Aid Certificate to Accompany Statement of Inability to Pay – this document can be used as an Exhibit: Legal Aid Certificate to the Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs.