Advocacy Tip #8 – Know When to Pivot

by Perry Pillow, AATC's Director of Government Affairs

Last month, we explored AATC Advocacy Tip #7: Know Your Strategy. Iconic movies Star Wars and The Godfather offered insights. First, advocacy is not playing checkers; advocacy is playing chess—multi-layered, Star Wars – “let the Wookie win” type chess. More importantly, as quoted from The Godfather: “hold your friends close, your enemies closer.” When it comes to advocacy, holding your enemies closer means knowing everything you can about their background, motives, tactics, votes, resume, constituents, contributors, friends, etc.    

This month we explore tip #8: Know When to Pivot. Pivoting is the misunderstood and much-maligned tactic that has served AATC well over the years. The ability to adapt, to deftly change course, to mitigate ensures short-term and long-term advocacy success.  

Every advocacy effort and every lobbyist meet their match. There are times when it becomes crystal clear that AATC will be unable to favorably influence a city ordinance, state law, or federal regulation. Our gut reaction is to fight to the bitter end. AATC never backs down from a fair fight. But political battles, especially at the local level, are rarely fair.  

The ability to mitigate an onerous city ordinance—to take 70% of something, rather than 100% of nothing—does not feel right or good; however, it is necessary for the industry’s long-term viability. AATC must always be prepared to negotiate a compromise.    

AATC has a long, successful history of modifying and amending government proposals. For example, Fort Worth sought to mandate a one-size-fits-all approach to recycling. Since more than most of the city council favored multifamily recycling, AATC modified the proposal to allow multifamily owners to choose the provider, method, and recycling frequency. When Fort Worth sought to mandate the use of the Crime-Free addendum to all residential lease contracts, AATC amended the ordinance to exempt owners that use the TAA Lease contract.    

AATC advocacy stands firm when our members’ core values are attacked (i.e., Bedford lawsuit), but our primary advocacy goal, when it is all said and done, is to walk away from the table with as many winners on our side and in our wake as possible!  

CDC EVICTION ORDER – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) filed an order in the Federal Register on September 1, 2020, to temporarily halt residential evictions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The CDC order prohibits evictions of renters in residential housing until December 31, 2020.   

The order:  

  • applies to virtually all rental housing providers.   
  • prohibits any eviction action during the covered period; and  
  • states that any person or organization that violates the order may be subject to up to $500,000 in fines per violation and/or jail time.   

The order DOES NOT:  

  • prevent evictions based on the lawful reasons articulated in the order.   
  • prevent housing providers from charging late fees and penalties; and  
  • eliminate the resident’s obligations under the lease,   

For renters to be eligible for the order’s protections, they must provide a declaration under penalty of perjury to their housing provider indicating the following:  

  • The individual has used best efforts to obtain rental assistance;  
  • The individual expects to earn no more than $99,000 (no more than $198,000 when filing jointly); was not required to report income in 2019 to the IRS; or received a stimulus check pursuant to the CARES Act;  
  • The individual is unable to pay their full rent due to several factors that remain unconnected to COVID-19;  
  • The individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments; and  
  • Eviction would likely render the individual homeless or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting because the individual has no other available housing options.  

AATC members can help elevate the need for this eviction moratorium by using the below link to contact their Congress members and urging them to pass a rental assistance package. 

Voice your concerns here:    

https://www.naahq.org/advocacy/action-center/advocacy-365?vvsrc=%2FCampaigns%2F77033%2FRespond&fbclid=IwAR03dtw9_xJwalP5eJ5CcL0xAOaKGCybppzmkN0DMhexdwdahOw50xHObTI  

To help housing providers better understand their rights and responsibilities under the order, NAA, in partnership with the Texas Apartment Association (TAA), has prepared preliminary guidance and FAQs.     

This guidance is not intended to be state-specific. It should be used in conjunction with local legal counsel’s advice to interpret these requirements considering existing federal, state, and local eviction laws.  

COVID-19 RENT ASSISTANCE – $6 MILLION STILL AVAILABLE – If you have residents that need rental assistance, urge them to contact the City of Arlington, City of Fort Worth, and Tarrant County housing officials. You can use the following link to help your residents:  https://www.aatcnet.org/coronavirus.html.   

Arlington, Fort Worth, and Tarrant County still have more than $8 million in unused rental assistance funds. Fort Worth officials have received more than 2,600 applications for COVID-19 rental assistance but have rejected more than 2,100 (80%). Fort Worth officials assert that these rejections are primarily based on incomplete paperwork and residents’ failure to follow-up. AATC continues to work with the cities of Fort Worth and Arlington, as well as Tarrant County officials on COVID-19 rental assistance programs. These rental assistance funds are limited and are available to assist with rent payments for renters directly affected by COVID-19. Rent payments will be made directly to property owners—not the residents.  

MASKS REQUIRED UNTIL NOVEMBER 30 – It is required to wear facemasks in all Tarrant County businesses until November 30. Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley issued the new executive order on August 25 as coronavirus cases increase rapidly throughout Texas.    

TARRANT COUNTY JP CARES ACT EVICTIONS –There’s good news and bad news about how Tarrant County Justice of the Peace courts handle evictions under the federal CARES Act. The good news first: Tarrant County justice courts agree that the CARES Act eviction moratorium ended on July 24 and that 30-day Notice to Vacate (NTV) could have been issued as early as July 25. Now the bad news: 1) Tarrant County justice courts interpret the CARES Act 30-day NTV to be in effect ad infinitum (it does not expire). For example, if a tenant in a CARES Act covered property paid their rent during the eviction moratorium period, and each month after but does not pay December 2020 rent, then a property owner must issue a 30-day notice to vacate. Same for January 2021, February 201, etc. 2) Based on input from an Assistant Tarrant County District Attorney, Tarrant County JP’s apply CARES Act 30-day notice to vacate to all units if a property only has one Housing Choice Voucher (HCV)! For example, if a 300-unit property only has one qualified unit, all 300 units subject to CARES Act. JPs are basing this on their interpretation of “dwelling” and “covered property” in the CARES Act. 3) The CARES Act 30-day NTV applies for all evictions—except imminent threat. For example, if filing an eviction based on unauthorized occupant – then you must give 30-day NTV  

ARLINGTON, FORT WORTH & TARRANT COUNTY PROPERTY TAXES – Tarrant County cities, school districts, and other taxing entities adopt their 2021 fiscal year (begins October 1, 2020) budgets, including their ad valorum tax rates. The good news is that Tarrant County ($.234 per $100) and Fort Worth ($.7474 per $100) kept their 2021 rate the same. The better news is that the City of Arlington decreased its rate to $.6225 per $100 down from $.624 per $100. The bad news is that Fort Worth ISD raised its rate by 7.5% from $1.282 per $100 to $1.378 per $100. The most populous Texas counties are required by state law to supply online access to Truth in Taxation Info that illustrates the impact of municipal tax rates. Tarrant County property owners will be able to access this information beginning August 1 at www.tarranttaxinfo.com   

Perry Pillow is AATC’s Director of Government Affairs. For more information, contact Perry at pillow@aatcnet.org or call 817-616-0354.