Was A North Texas Family Illegally Evicted After The Federal Eviction Moratorium Extension?

The CDC recently extended a federal moratorium on eviction through the end of March to help families that are facing eviction because of financial hardships due to coronavirus and COVID-19. But that didn’t help Jonnay Mckinley, whose pro bono eviction attorney Mark Melton argues that the landlord and sheriff did not have the legal authority to proceed with the eviction. So why did it happen?

And at the end of 2020, Mckinley received the first notice to vacate. In response, she signed a declaration under the CDC’s policy and brought it to her leasing office. Nearly a month later, she was told that a constable would be on his wife the next day to remove the family forcibly if need be. She didn’t understand.

Mckinley said, “I felt so let down, like, what do I do? My kids, their faces. They’re like, Mom, I’m sorry. They feel sorry for me. ‘You tried so hard and it still wasn’t good enough.’”

According to Melton, Dallas County constables are not legally allowed to proceed with an eviction once they are informed that a tenant has submitted a CDC declaration. In that case, the constable can only return to court to alert the judge what transpired. The landlord would be forced to request a hearing if he still wanted to proceed.

We asked the Toronjo & Prosser law firm about their current bankruptcy cases. Like most firms around the country, they’re dealing with an increased caseload. According to attorneys at T&P, business owners have financial woes of their own — landlords among them — and haven’t been quick to show leniency to everyone else. But what goes around comes around, and people who disobey laws during the COVID-19 crisis will likely face harsh punishment if ever brought before a judge.

Mckinley’s experiences make that more than clear.

Melton said, “This isn’t even a he said, she said scenario. We have hard proof that this was submitted to all of the relevant parties and none of them did anything about it.”

But of course the constable says that Mckinley never mentioned it. 

Texas Supreme Court ruled on a 32nd emergency order to provide oversight about when and where a tenant needs to sign the moratorium declaration and send it. The 32nd would force the judge ruling over the case to halt the eviction barring a declaration hearing. None of that happened.

Eventually, late fees were waived by the apartment complex and her landlord said she could move back. According to the apartment’s management, a deal was reached. No other details were provided. 

Melton said, “Somebody slipped through the cracks and it has life-altering consequences to this young family. It never should have happened.”

Now, she has the keys to her old apartment back. She says she still feels like a failure, though. Mckinley explained, “My main thing is my babies. It’s not about me. It’s about them.”