Stop Eviction Texas
Our site is devoted to helping individual and commercial clients stop or stall an eviction in Texas. Effective August 1st we will be moving our programs nationwide. It should be noted that this article deals with Stop Eviction Texas.
The eviction process in Texas is covered by the Texas Laws of Civil Procedure. Specifically Property Code Title 4. Chapter 24 Forcible Entry and Detainer.
If the landlord finds the tenant has either violated a portion of the lease or failed to pay rent, the landlord must give the tenant a 3-day notice to vacate. If the tenant fails to move out, the landlord may go to the local JP Court in the precinct that the property is located and file eviction papers. The landlord must be careful as to precinct lines so as to file in the correct precinct. Failure to do so can result is the case being dismissed. The landlord may not change the lock without notice and after filing may not do anything other than wait for a hearing in the Justice Court.
Often landlords may try to do self-eviction. That is, take action like turning off the power, removing the electric meter, turning off water and/or changing the locks. All of these are considered self-eviction tactics and strictly prohibited by law. They can be grounds to have a landlord's eviction case dismissed.
The 3-day notice is followed by the Constable of the Precinct hand-delivering a Citation to appear in the Justice Court. The Justice Court hearing is where the tenant and landlord stand before the Judge of the Precinct and explain their case. 9 times out of 10 the landlord will win out. These hearings usually take less than 5 minutes especially in eviction cases that involve back rent. If you owe back rent and can't pay the full amount the Judge will rule against you and give you five (5) days to vacate the property. After the 5th day the landlord may get a "Writ of Possession" and have the Constable come and forcibly remove you and your belongings.
We often get asked "Do I have to appear at the Justice Court hearing?". Our answer is simply "Yes" if you want to have at least that 1 in 10 chance of winning. If the other party doesn't show up and you do, the case will be dismissed.
If I lose my hearing can I appeal the decision? In Texas, you can live to fight another day. As long as you file your appeal in a timely manner. That is, you must file your appeal during the 5 day period that the judge gives you to vacate. The appeal is filed in the Justice Court at the clerk of the court's window. When appealing you are basically asking the Justice Court to have your case reheard by a higher Court. In Texas that would be the County Court at Law.
The Justice Court may grant your appeal but will require that you pay rent directly to the Justice Court. That rent is due within five days of filing your appeal. Failure to pay rent will result in your appeal not being perfected and allow your landlord to get a Default Judgement and a Writ of Possession.
Okay, let's assume you file your appeal on time and pay your rent within 5 days of the appeal. You're not home free yet. The landlord may challenge your appeal. That means another hearing in the Justice Court where the Judge will rehear your case and review your appeal documents. The Judge may rule against you in the Challenge Hearing and force you to pay a bond. The bond is usually 2x the plus court costs. This could put you in a position where you cannot pay your bond and you could be forced out.
That being the worst-case scenario, we should hope you do not end up in a challenge hearing. If your case does get moved over to the County Court, there are still a few more obstacles. After being sent to County Court, you will receive 2 letters from the Court. The first will be a letter telling you that the case has been moved to County Court. It will also tell you that you must file an "answer" to the County Court charges. You see once the case moves over to County Court your landlord has to start all over again. This is a new trial. It is called "Trial De Novo". An answer must be filed prior to the hearing and within 8 days of the case be filed in County Court. Failure to file the answer could result in a Default Judgement and allow your landlord to get a Writ of Possession.
So you get your answer filed. Now what? Okay, the hearing date will come in a second or third letter from the County. You should plan on attending that hearing or have an attorney present for you. If you win the case will be dismissed. If you lose the Judge will give you 5-10 days to vacate the property. Total elapsed time from start to finish can range from 30-60 days.